Articles Posted in Florida Supreme Court

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In this case, the district court concluded that satisfying the foundational requirements under the past recollection recorded exception to hearsay need not come from the declarant’s testimony. Afterwards, the Supreme Court decided Polite v. State, in which the Court held that the past recollection recorded exception requires the witness to indicate that the events were fresh in her mind when the statement was made, as well as to attest to the accuracy of the memorandum or record. Because the victims in this case did not vouch at trial for the accuracy or correctness of their written statements, the Supreme Court quashed the district court’s decision and remanded for reconsideration in light of Polite. View "McNeal v. State" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of two counts of first degree murder, burglary and robbery. On remand, the trial court imposed a sentence of death for one of the murders. The Supreme Court affirmed. Defendant subsequently filed a motion for postconviction relief, alleging, among other things, that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel. The postconviction court granted Defendant’s motion to the extent that he was entitled to a new penalty phase trial based on ineffective assistance of counsel. The Supreme Court reversed the postconviction court’s judgment that Defendant be afforded a new penalty phase, as counsel did not provide constitutionally ineffective assistance under Strickland v. Washington, and otherwise affirmed. View "State v. Woodel" on Justia Law

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Petitioner was charged with robbery with a firearm. At trial, Petitioner’s theory of defense was that he abandoned the stolen property prior to threatening or using force. Before the case was submitted to the jury, Petitioner requested a special jury instruction on abandonment. The trial court gave the requested special instruction but modified it to require that the victim be aware of the abandonment. The district court affirmed Petitioner’s conviction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that substantial evidence supported the conclusion that Petitioner failed to abandon the property, and therefore, the trial court’s modification of the proffered special instruction did not render it harmful, where the abandonment of property defense had no application to Petitioner’s case. View "Rockmore v. State" on Justia Law

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Petitioner was convicted of lewd or lascivious molestation of a child under the age of twelve in violation of Fla. Stat. 800.04(5)(b). Petitioner sought a downward departure sentence, but the trial court concluded it had no discretion to impose a downward departure sentence because Fla. Stat. 775.082(3)(a)(4) imposed a mandatory minimum sentence of twenty-five years’ imprisonment for violations of section 800.04(5)(b). The district court affirmed the trial court’s imposition of a twenty-five year sentence, concluding that the legislature intended to impose a mandatory minimum sentence in section 775.082(3)(a)(4). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under the plain meaning of the statutory language, the trial court does not have the discretion to impose a sentence below the twenty-five year minimum set forth in section 775.082(3)(a)(4). View "Rochester v. State" on Justia Law

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Appellant and his codefendant were convicted of kidnapping and first-degree murder. Appellant was sentenced to death. After the Supreme Court affirmed Appellant’s convictions and sentence, Appellant filed a motion to vacate his judgment of conviction for murder and his death sentence and also filed a motion for DNA testing. The postconviction court denied postconviction relief and denied DNA testing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the postconviction court did not err in (1) denying relief on some of Appellant’s ineffective assistance of counsel claims after an evidentiary hearing; (2) summarily denying the remainder of Appellant’s ineffective assistance of counsel claims; and (3) denying Appellant’s motion for postconviction DNA testing. View "Jackson v. State" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Petitioner was convicted of the first-degree murders of his two stepdaughters. The trial court sentenced Petitioner to death for each of the murders. The Supreme Court affirmed Petitioner's convictions and sentences on appeal. The Office of Capital Collateral Regional Counsel filed Petitioner's initial postconviction motion, but Petitioner refused to sign the required verification of the motion. After granting extensions of time and giving Petitioner numerous opportunities to file a verified motion, the trial court dismissed the unverified postconviction motion with prejudice. Petitioner appealed and also filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus claiming that the trial court erred in allowing him to proceed pro se at trial. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court did not err in determining that Petitioner was competent to proceed with postconviction litigation; (2) the trial court did not err in dismissing Petitioner's postconviction motion with prejudice for failing to file a facially sufficient motion; and (3) Petitioner's petition for habeas corpus as relief was not warranted. View "Hernandez-Alberto v. Crews" on Justia Law

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In 1986, Defendant was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. The Supreme Court affirmed on appeal. Defendant subsequently filed a motion for postconviction relief, which the trial court denied after an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court remanded for a new evidentiary hearing. After a new evidentiary hearing was held in 2010, the circuit court denied postconviction relief on all claims. Defendant appealed the denial of his postconviction motion and petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus. The Supreme Court affirmed the denial of Defendant's postconviction petition and denied Defendant's petition for habeas corpus, holding (1) the circuit court did not err in denying Defendant's postconviction claims on the basis that they were either procedurally barred, refuted by the record, or otherwise without merit; and (2) Defendant did not show he was entitled to habeas relief where he failed to demonstrate either deficient performance on the part of his appellate counsel or prejudice. View "Wickham v. State" on Justia Law

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Defendant pled guilty to carrying a concealed firearm and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress the firearm, his identity as a convicted felon, and statement he made after he was detained by the police. In particular, Defendant alleged that the arresting officer lacked reasonable suspicion to conduct the Terry stop because no facts were presented to indicate that Defendant did not possess a license to carry the firearm. The court of appeal affirmed but certified conflict with Regalado v. State on the issue of whether an officer who believes that someone is carrying a concealed firearm, without more, has reasonable suspicion to conduct a Terry stop. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) given the differing factual circumstances that preceded the stops in Regalado and in this case, no actual conflict existed; and (2) the court of appeal did not err in finding that the Terry stop of Defendant was valid. View "Mackey v. State" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of attempted first-degree murder, and burglary of a dwelling. The trial court imposed death sentences for the murders of both victims. Defendant appealed, raising several issues with regard to the penalty phase that led to the imposition of the death sentences. The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions and sentences, holding (1) any error in the trial court's finding of the aggravating factors was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) the trial court did not err in allowing victim impact statements or in admitting photographs of the murder victims; (3) the imposition of the death penalty in this case was proportionate and supported by the applicable aggravating and mitigating factors; and (4) sufficient evidence in the record supported Defendant's convictions. View "Kalisz v. State" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of trafficking in cocaine. Defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court erred by denying his motion for judgment of acquittal on the trafficking charge because the State had not chemically tested each baggie in Defendant's possession for cocaine before commingling and weighing the baggies' contents. The court of appeal affirmed, concluding that the contents of the nine individually wrapped baggies were properly commingled before they were chemically tested and weighed due to the particular circumstances that surrounded the discovery of the bags. The Supreme Court quashed the decision below, holding (1) in cases such as this one, the State must prove through chemical testing that each individually wrapped packet of white powder seized contains at least a mixture of a controlled substance before the State may combine and weigh the commingled substance; and (2) therefore, the trial court in this case should have granted Defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal. Remanded. View "Greenwade v. State" on Justia Law