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On direct appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed Appellant’s first-degree murder conviction but vacated his sentence of death and remanded for a new penalty phase, holding (1) Appellant’s ineffective assistance of counsel claims were improperly raised on direct appeal; (2) the evidence presented at trial was sufficient to support Appellant’s first-degree murder conviction; (3) the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying Appellant’s motion for the appointment of a crime scene expert; and (4) in light of the nonunanimous jury recommendation to impose the death sentence, Appellant’s death sentence must be reversed and the case remanded for a new penalty phase. View "Bargo v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Appellant, an inmate under a sentence of death, appealed the denial of her motion for postconviction relief filed under Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851. The Supreme Court affirmed the denial of relief for a new guilt phase but granted Appellant a new penalty phase based on Hurst v. Florida, 577 U.S. __ (2016) and Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016). The court vacated Appellant’s death sentences and remanded for a new penalty phase, holding (1) Appellant’s ineffective assistance of guilt phase counsel claims failed; but (2) Appellant was entitled to a new penalty phase in light of a nonunanimous jury recommendation to impose death sentences. View "Cole v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the postconviction court’s order denying Appellant’s claims raised in his motion to vacate his conviction of first-degree murder and sentence of death, with the exception of Appellant’s ineffective assistance of penalty phase counsel claim, which the court did not address because Appellant was entitled to a new penalty phase in light of Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016). The court vacated Appellant’s sentence of death and remanded for a new penalty phase, holding (1) regarding the non-unanimous jury recommendation to impose a sentence of death in this case, it cannot be said that the failure to require a unanimous verdict was harmless; (2) Appellant did not qualify as intellectually disabled under Florida law, and therefore, the postconviction court did not err when it denied Appellant’s claim that he was intellectually disabled; and (3) Appellant failed to establish that Fla. Stat. 27.7081 and Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851 are unconstitutional either facially or as applied. View "Williams v. State" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was the authority of the City of Miami Civilian Investigative Panel (CIP), an independent body designed to investigate and review instances of alleged police misconduct and review police policies and procedures, to issue a subpoena to Lieutenant Freddy D’Agastino and order him to appear before the CIP to testify in regard to alleged misconduct. D’Agastino and the Fraternal Order of Police argued that the CIP as an investigative authority conflicts with a component of the Police Officers’ Bill of Rights (PBR), Fla. Stat. 112.533(1). The trial court ruled in favor of the City of Miami and the CIP. The Third District Court of Appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court quashed the decision below to the extent it affirmed the CIP’s authority to issue a subpoena to D’Agastino, holding that the PBR preempts the authority of a political subdivision as defined in Fla. Stat. 112.533(1)(b) to compel an officer to testify in connection with a complaint of misconduct through a subpoena. View "D’Agastino v. City of Miami" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, an inmate in state custody, filed a pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus. This was the thirteenth extraordinary writ petition or notice he had filed pertaining to a certain criminal case. The Supreme Court dismissed the petition and retained jurisdiction to pursue possible sanctions against him. In dismissing the petition, the court ruled that the petition raised claims that could have or should have been raised at trial and on direct appeal in his criminal case. Subsequent to the court’s issuance of an order to show cause, Petitioner filed eight pleadings raising the same arguments he raised in his previous petitions. The Supreme Court determined that Petitioner’s arguments were without merit and directed the clerk of court to reject any future pleadings or other requests submitted by Petitioner that pertained to his criminal case unless such filings were signed by a member in good standing of The Florida Bar. View "Fails v. Jones" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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For purposes of applying the municipal or public purposes tax exemption contained in Fla. Const. art. VII, section 3(a), a public marina owned and operated by a municipality is a traditional municipal function that carries a presumption of tax-exempt status. The owners of a private marina in Fort Pierce filed a complaint challenging the tax-exempt status of the Fort Pierce City Marina and the Fisherman’s Wharf Marina. Plaintiffs’ amended complaint sought declaratory and injunctive relief on the basis that the property appraiser unconstitutionally granted ad valorem tax exemptions to the two marina properties owned and operated by the City of Fort Pierce and the Fort Pierce Redevelopment Agency (the City). The trial court ruled in favor of Plaintiffs, determining that neither of the City marinas qualified for the constitutional tax exemption. The Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed, concluding that municipal marinas are traditionally considered exempt from taxation. The Supreme Court approved the decision below, holding that Plaintiffs failed to meet their burden to rebut the presumption that the municipally-owned properties that were used exclusively by the City to provide traditional municipal functions were constitutionally exempt from ad valorem taxation. View "Treasure Coast Marina, LC v. City of Fort Pierce" on Justia Law

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Harrel Franklin Braddy was convicted of first-degree murder and other crimes. After a penalty phase, the jury recommended the death penalty by a vote of eleven to one. The trial court sentenced Braddy to death. The Supreme Court affirmed. Braddy then filed a motion for postconviction relief, asserting eight claims. The postconviction court denied Braddy’s claims. Braddy appealed the denial of postconviction relief and filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The Supreme Court affirmed the postconviction court’s denial of relief for a new guilt phase and denied the claims in Braddy’s habeas petition with the exception of his claim for relief under Hurst v. Florida, 577 U.S. __ (2016), holding that Braddy was entitled to a new penalty phase in light of the nonunanimous jury recommendation to impose a death sentence and the fact that it could not be said that the failure to require a unanimous verdict was harmless. View "Braddy v. State" on Justia Law

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Michael Duane Zack, III was found guilty of the sexual assault, robbery, and first-degree murder of Ravonne Smith. After a penalty phase hearing, the jury recommended a sentence of death by a vote of eleven to one. The trial court followed the jury’s recommendation. This appeal concerned Zack’s second successive postconviction motion in which he raised a claim of intellectual disability based on Hall v. Florida, 572 U.S. __ (2014). The trial court summarily denied the motion. Zack appealed the denial of postconviction relief and also petitioned for habeas corpus relief. The Supreme Court held (1) with regard to Zack’s postconviction motion, the trial court did not err in summarily denying Zack an evidentiary hearing on his intellectual disability claim and in determining that Defendant did not satisfy the subaverage intellectual functioning prong; and (2) Zack was not entitled to relief under Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016) because Hurst does not apply retroactively to cases, such as Zack’s, that were final before the Supreme Court decided Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 582 (2002). View "Zack v. State" on Justia Law

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Thomas Bevel was found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder. The jury recommended the death penalty by a vote of eight to four as to the murder of Garrick Springfield and by a unanimous vote of twelve to zero as to the murder of Phillip Sims. The trial court followed the jury’s recommendations. Bevel later filed a motion for postconviction relief pursuant to Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851, raising ten claims. The postconviction court denied relief, including Bevel’s ineffective assistance of penalty phase counsel claim. Bevel appealed and filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, claiming ineffective assistance of appellate counsel and arguing that he was entitled to relief under Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016). The Supreme Court denied Bevel’s habeas petition but reversed the denial of postconviction relief, vacated Bevel’s death sentences, and remanded for a new penalty phase proceeding, holding (1) Bevel was entitled to Hurst relief for his death sentence for the murder of Springfield; (2) penalty phase counsel conducted an unreasonable mitigation investigation, and because Bevel met the prejudice prong under Strickland, his death sentence for the murder of Sims must be vacated; and (3) Bevel’s remaining claims of error were unavailing. View "Bevel v. State" on Justia Law

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Donte Jermaine Hall was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Anthony Blunt. The jury voted eight to four in favor of a death sentence for the murder of Blunt. The trial court followed the jury’s recommendation. Hall filed a motion for postconviction relief under Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851. He appealed the denial of that motion and also petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of habeas corpus. The Supreme Court affirmed the denial of Hall’s postconviction guilt phase claims, denied the habeas guilt phase claims, but vacated his death sentence and remanded for a new penalty phase, holding (1) the trial court did not err in denying Hall’s ineffective assistance of trial counsel claim; (2) the trial court did not err in denying Hall’s ineffective assistance of appellate counsel claim; and (3) Hall’s death sentence violated Hurst v. Florida, 577 U.S. __ (2016), and the Hurst error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "Hall v. State" on Justia Law