How Many Florida Death Row Inmates Will Get Resentencing Hearings?

Last week, the Florida Supreme Court released its opinion in Richard Franklin's case

New Sentencing Hearing for Florida Death Row Inmate Richard Franklin

Their decision?  Franklin should get a new sentencing hearing on his murder conviction of a prison guard. 

Why? There was not complete agreement among the jurors in his initial sentencing.  "In light of the non-unanimous jury recommendation to impose a death sentence," explains the Court, Mr. Franklin will have a new sentencing hearing. 


What's a Sentencing Hearing?

What's that? It's a trial in and of itself.  The prosecution presents its aggravating factors and arguments on why capital punishment should be given; the defense presents mitigating factors on why the death penalty is not appropriate. 

How Many New Sentencing Hearings in Florida?

Why is this happening?  Last January, the United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in Hurst v. Florida.  They ruled that the Florida death penalty law was unconstitutional.  We've discussed this in past posts. 

Last week's Florida Supreme Court decision in Franklin is a result of the decision in Hurst. 

Thing is, it's also a big red flag to the State of Florida that we can expect lots more Death Row Inmates to be allowed a second sentencing hearing.

How many?  No one is sure.  Robert Dunham of the Death Penalty Information Center has been quoted as predicting it's in the hundreds

For more details, see the DPIC discussion here.

DSM and the Death Penalty: Issue in SCOTUS Oral Argument Transcript

The United States Supreme Court has just heard oral arguments in a death penalty case where the intellectual ability and mental capabilities of the defendant is an issue. 

Those interested in this aspect of capital punishment may want to read the oral argument transcript in Moore v. Texas, which is available online here.

DSM and Death Penalty

Notice the discussion of  the  Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

What is appropriate?  What is accurate?

Here's an earlier post on the issue for a background on DSM -- did you know that narcissistic personality disorder was removed from DSM-V? See, "Use of DSM in the Law: the Doctors Need to Recognize this Reality in DSM-V."

See also, which discusses the impact of Hall v. Florida on this issue: Assessing Adaptive Functioning in Death Penalty Cases after Hall and DSM-5, Leigh D. Hagan, Eric Y. Drogin, Thomas J. Guilmette Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Online Mar 2016, 44 (1) 96-105.


Happy Thanksgiving!


Steven Spears Georgia Execution Set for Today: Execution Schedule

While there have been many delays of executions this year, both by overall court decision (e.g., Florida) and by stays in an individual case (e.g., Texas), the death penalty is being carried out in this country.

Georgia Execution Scheduled Today: Steven Frederick Spears

Today, in fact, the State of Georgia is scheduled to execute Steven Frederick Spears for the 2007 killing of his ex-girlfriend, Sherri Holland. 

Details of his case can be read at The Marshall Project. 

As of the publication of this post, Mr. Spears was set to die in 4 hours and 53 minutes. 




Death Penalty 2016: Election Results

For details on yesterday's election results regarding capital punishment, read the coverage provided by The Marshall Project, the Catholic News Agency, and the ABA Journal

Here's the gist of it:

1.  California

Two different issues placed before voters in California.  The results:  they voted AGAINST repealing the death penalty.  And they voted on a proposal that many believe will work to clear the way for executions to begin again in California.

For more on California's Death Penalty, read our May 2011 post, "California 700+ Death Row Gets Good News: 2006 Moratorium on Death Penalty Will Continue For Now."

2.  Nebraska

Voters in Nebraska decided to put the death penalty back into action in that state.  Their legislature had repealed capital punishment, now it has returned.  Ten inmates currently reside on Nebraska's Death Row.

For more on Nebraska's Death Penalty, read our July 2015 post, "Two States May Bring Back the Death Penalty."

3.  Oklahoma

Voters agreed on an amendment to their state constitution which will recognize that the death penalty is not "cruel and unusual punishment" as defined by the federal constitution.  That's not all. 

Oklahoma also passed language that will allow its state legislature to provide alternative execution methods if it is decided that the lethal injection method is unconstitutional. 

(Notice how this does not jive with earlier polling results in Oklahoma, where pollsters reported that a majority favored life without parole over the death penalty.)

For more on Oklahoma's Death Penalty, check out our November 2015 post, "Lethal Injection Drug Controversies Stop Executions in Missouri, Ohio, and Oklahoma."


Texas Use of the 'Lennie Standard' for Mental Competency in Death Penalty

For those like Terence Lenamon, who fight on the issues of mental illness and intellectual ability in capital punishment, the use of the "Lennie Standard" by the State of Texas comes as no surprise.  It's been used for years.

Of Mice and Men

Thing is, lots of people weren't aware of this standard and they are pretty shocked by it. 

What is the "Lennie Standard" used by Texas?  It refers one of the main characters in John Steinbeck's novel Of Mice and Men. (Warning: this is a real tear jerker.  Have tissues ready.)

For details on the Lennie Standard and the current case before SCOTUS which will be reviewing its use by Texas, read the article, "Texas on trial for using fictional character in death penalty cases."

Moore v. Texas Argument November 29, 2016

The SCOTUS case?  Moore v. Texas, with oral argument scheduled for November 29, 2016.



Florida Supreme Court: Retroactive Application of Hall v. Florida

Well, there was another big case out of the Florida Supreme Court regarding capital punishment this month. Walls v. State was released on October 20, 2016.

Retroactive Application of Hall v. Florida

Last week, the decision in Walls v. State was issued. In this case, the High Court has ruled that over two dozen Florida Death Row inmates who unsuccessfully argued that they should be spared the death penalty because of intellectual disabilities should have the opportunity to do so now.

In sum, Walls is taking the Hall v. Florida decision and agreeing that it should apply retroactively.

In Hall v. Florida, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Florida procedure for deciding who suffers intellectual disability for purposes of the death penalty violated the constitution and imposed cruel and unusual punishment.

As you may know, defending the issue of intellectual disabilities in defendants facing the death penalty is a particular passion for Terence Lenamon. 

In case you're interested, we’ve uploaded the entire opinion in Terry’s online library for your convenience. Here it is:


Walls v. State by Reba Kennedy on Scribd

What Does the New Hurst Decision Mean for Florida Death Penalty?

 As Florida deals with the aftermath of the recent Florida Supreme Court decision in Hurst v. Florida (see our last post), media coverage includes considering what this means for the State of Florida and the state of capital punishment now.  In the short term, if not the long run.

What Happens Now?  Miami Herald Asks Terence Lenamon and Other Death Penalty Experts

For instance, Terry Lenamon was among those queried by the Miami Herald in the wake of last week's decision. 

Read that story by Mary Ellen Klas and David Ovalle, published on October 14, 2016, "Court again tosses state death penalty; ruling raises bar on capital punishment."

Impact Upon Death Row Sentencing Hearings

One thing that is clear -- this is the second round.  Florida's capital punishment statute was ruled unconstitutional once already.  That's why the Florida Legislature worked fast to pass the new law, the one that has just been ruled to violate the federal constitution, as well.

So, just like before, there's a lot of talk about those sentencing hearings under the unconstitutional framework.  Some are predicting hundreds of case reviews.  386, to be precise.

For details on that issue, see the October 18, 2016 Miami Herald coverage by Michael Auslen in "Death penalty ruling could mean new sentencing for 386 murderers in Florida."

Perry v. Florida in Online Library

Last week, we placed the new Hurst decision in Terry's online library for ease of access.  Today, we've also uploaded the Perry v. Florida decision that was announced the same day. 

In Perry, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that any new statute from the legislature cannot be applied to pending cases where the State is seeking capital punishment.  This halts any sentencing until the legislature finalizes a new statute. 

Read Perry here:

Perry v. Florida 2016 by Reba Kennedy on Scribd



Florida Supreme Court Rules in Hurst v. Florida: Unconstitutional

The Florida Supreme Court has published its opinion in Hurst v. Florida.  You can read the opinion below.

The state supreme court has held that the law passed earlier this year by the Florida Legislature is unconstitutional. 

The law allowed the death penalty if the jury recommendation was 10 to 2 at a minimum.  Two jurors could vote against death and capital punishment could be the sentence anyway, under the law.

This Florida Supreme Court case finds that is wrong.  The jury recommendations to impose the death penalty must be unanimous. 

From the opinion: 

"By requiring unanimity in a recommendation of death in order for death to be considered and imposed, Florida will achieve the important goal of bringing its capital sentencing laws into harmony with the direction of society reflected in all these states and with federal law."

The full Hurst v. Florida opinion has been stored in the Terry Lenamon Online Library.  Here it is for your convenience:


Hurst v. Florida, Florida Supreme Court Ruling Released on October 14, 2016 by Reba Kennedy on Scribd

SCOTUS Opens Door to PTSD, Child Abuse Mitigation Evidence in 25 Death Penalty Cases

This week, the United States Supreme Court refused to take a case.  The High Court's refusal to hear arguments and grade the papers of a lower Arizona court decision means that decision stands.  It's good law.  It's final.

Sometimes, SCOTUS's power lies it is decision not to exercise that power. 

The Arizona Case Where Writ Was Denied by SCOTUS

Last fall, the U.S.  Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that James McKinney's sentence of death by the State of Arizona was unconstitutional.  His capital punishment sentence was overturned, and McKinney's federal appeal was a victory not only for himself, but for around 25 other people sitting on Arizona's Death Row.

The Ninth Circuit opinion can be read online here at Google Scholar. 

Mitigation Evidence of Child Abuse Victim and PTSD

In sum, the federal appeals court ruled that the Arizona rule of "causal nexus" had violated the federal constitution by keeping out evidence of McKinney's being abused as a child and his diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The abuse McKinney suffered as a child and the resulting psychological trauma is detailed in the Ninth Circuit's majority opinion.

This is mitigating evidence used by defense lawyers to argue against the sentence of death during the sentencing phase of a capital trial.  (Terry Lenamon is passionate about this issue and the fight for balancing psychological and mental issues of the defendant on the sentencing scale.)

This means that the McKinney opinion can now form the basis of other appeals, seeking review of the mitigation evidence and sentencing trials of other defendants who were sentenced to death in Arizona. 

Heated Dissent in the Ninth Circuit Case

The dissent pulls no punches.  There is strong disagreement about what the majority decides, and the refusal of SCOTUS to grant writ in this case may be a surprise to many.

As the dissent (five justices joining) points out, for one thing this case may well impact every death penalty given in Arizona from 1989 to 2005 and more.  From the Dissent:

"Also quite troubling, the majority wrongly smears the Arizona Supreme Court and calls into question every single death sentence imposed in Arizona between 1989 and 2005 and our cases which have denied habeas relief as to those sentences."

For more, read the Associated Press coverage by Astrid Galvan, "US Supreme Court Won't Hear Arizona Death Case."

Constitutional Protection for Pharmacy Supplying Missouri Execution Drugs?

The State of Missouri is buying its lethal injection drugs from a pharmacy.  The identity of that supplier is a secret.

Does Pharmacy Have Constitutionally Protected Speech Over Products It Sells?

The supplier has provided the drugs used in 16 executions in the State of Missouri.

Mississippi Death Row inmates have a court fight going on over Mississippi's lethal injection methods, and in that suit they have subpoenaed the Missouri Department of Correction's drug source information.  It's a part of their arguments regarding Mississippi, and they are comparing what happens in other states, too.

Here's the question:  is the drug supplier protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution? Can its identity be kept secret under an argument that it's related to political speech?


Read the analysis of this argument by Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman as published in Bloomberg News here. 

Prosecutor Admits "Coward" - Watch CBS 60 Minutes: "30 Years on Death Row"

CBS has made not only the video of its 60 Minutes story but the full transcript from “30 Years on Death Row” available online. 

It first aired back in October 2015, but you may have seen it earlier this month, when they shared it a second time.

Wrongful Conviction and 30 Years in Solitary Confinement on Death Row

It's the story of how a man named Glenn Ford spent 30 years in solitary confinement on Louisana's Death Row.  He was wrongfully convicted.  An innocent man.

Prosecutor Interview: "I was arrogant, narcissistic, caught up in the culture of winning.."

Key here is the interview the prosecutor in that case, as he explains the trial tactics and perspective of the state's attorney in a capital case. 

Another vital message here: the fact that the defense attorneys not only had no capital murder defense expense, they did not practice criminal law at ALL.  These were two civil attorneys, going into court against an experienced prosecutor with a man's life at stake.

Read the Transcript here.

Watch the Video here.

Florida Capital Resource Center Covered in Gerry Spence Trial Lawyers College Magazine

The recent issue of Warrior, the publication of Gerry Spence's Trial Lawyers' College, includes an article written by Terence Lenamon and Melissa Ortiz of Lenamon Law -- and Laurie D. Goodman,
Executive Director of the TLC, has been gracious to allow us to share the article here on the blog.

We Deserve More: The Story of the Florida Capital Resource Center

This article delves into the Florida Capital Resource Center's hows and whys -- issues of importance to anyone following the issues surrounding the death penalty and capital punishment in the United States. 

Here it is:

We Deserve More: The Story of the Florida Capital Resource Center by Terence Lenamon, Esq. and Melissa Orti...

This article was published by the Trial Lawyer's College ("TLC") in its Warrior Summer 2016 edition, and the TLC owns the copyrights to the article.

Letter Sent By Victims' Families to Duval County State Attorney's Office

This week in Florida, the Harvard research report into capital punishment in America continues to take on a life of its own. 

We've published posts on various aspects of the Harvard study (read them here and here).

Letter Sent to Duval County State Attorney

Now, there's lots of talk - and news coverage - after two national organizations focused upon the Death Penalty both in the United States and abroad, released a letter that has been sent to the head prosecutor for Duval County, Florida, regarding the state attorney requesting the death penalty in prosecutions here.

The two national organizations are Equal Justice U.S.A. and Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation.

Those signing the letter represent victims from all over the country.  Five of the 55 signatories come from the State of Florida. 

Will this put pressure on the Duval County powers that be?  Should it?  What do you think? 

The full text of the letter sent by the victims to the Duval County State Attorney reads as follows:

All of us have suffered the tragedy of losing a loved one to murder. We intimately understand the deep pain caused by such loss and the challenges that families face in rebuilding their lives. Our criminal justice system must be responsive to the needs of murder victims’ families. Sadly, Duval County’s use of the death penalty has too often caused further pain by forcing murder victims’ families to endure a long, complex, and error-prone legal process.

Prosecutors and other officials need to be honest about the reality of the death penalty: it’s a false promise. A death penalty case drags families through long trials, appeals, and reversals—in short, constant uncertainty that leaves them frustrated and angry. That’s especially true in Florida. In just this year, the state’s death penalty law has been struck down as unconstitutional twice. Officials keep promising that the death penalty works and can deliver justice, but as these promises fall short time and time again, murder victims’ families are the ones left to suffer.

The District Attorney’s Office in Duval County frequently pursues the death penalty with little regard for its potentially harmful impact on murder victims’ families. Duval County is responsible for a quarter of death sentences in Florida, despite being only 5% of the state’s population. Of the over 3,000 counties nationwide, Duval County is an extreme outlier in its use of the death penalty. It is one of only 16 counties that produced five or more death sentences between 2010 and 2015.

The lengths to which Duval County will go in its pursuit of the death penalty has been on display after the 2013 murder of Shelby Farah. Despite her mother’s request that her family be spared a death penalty case and the lengthy process it entails, prosecutors continue to seek it. “Since my daughter’s murder,” Darlene Farah recently wrote, “I have begged and pleaded with the prosecutors to take the death penalty off the table, accept a plea deal and end this painful process for my family. At every step of the process, our wishes have been ignored.”

In pursuing the death penalty, Duval County often has caused additional harm to murder victims’ families. We, the undersigned, therefore call on the State Attorney’s Office for the 4th Judicial Circuit covering Duval County to immediately suspend use of the death penalty.

56 murder victims’ family members, listed below alphabetically, joined the letter.

Mary Ansheles (South Portland, ME)
Uncle Jullius was murdered

Joan Ansheles (Arlington, VA)
Relative G. Grischele was murdered

Kelly Parker Badeau (Tucson, AZ)
Father Julius Frederick Parker Jr. was murdered

Patricia Bane (Atlantic, VA)
Uncle Ambrose Bane was murdered

Henrietta Beckman (Hartford, CT)
Son Randy Beckman was murdered

Ernest Bohn (North Newton, KS)
Sister Helen Bohn Klassen was murdered

SueZann Bosler (Hallandale Beach, FL)
Father Bill Bosler was murdered

Elizabeth Brancato (Torrington, KS)
Sister Barbara O. McKitis was murdered

Kelli Cervantes (Brooklyn, NY)
Mother Noni Cervantes was murdered

Cedric Clarkson (St. Louis, MO)
Son was murdered

Nannetta Cook (Junction City, KS)
Grandmother Mary Mae Johnson was murdered

Madeleine Dewar (San Antonio, TX)
Son Andrew Hughes was murdered

Ursula Douglas (Charlotte, NC)
Relative T.J. Price Jr. was murdered

Nadine Douglas (Rock Hill, SC)
Relative T.J. Price Jr. was murdered

Cousar Douglas (Rock Hill, SC)
Relative Martha Houze was murdered

Deirdre Douglas-Hubbard (Charleston, SC)
Great grandmother and cousin were murdered

Carol Dreiling (Alexander, NC)
Parents Joan and Fred Dreiling were murdered

Judith Elane (Little Rock, AR)
Brother Ronald Eugene Schlatter was murdered

Darlene Farah (Jacksonville, FL)
Daughter Shelby Farah was murdered

Kelly and Celeste Fitzgerald (Chatham, NJ)
Cousin Ann McGovern was murdered

Kristin Froehlich (Wilmington, DE)
Brother David Froehlich was murdered

Joan Gauker (Monroe, NC)
Granddaughter was murdered

Aba Gayle (Silverton, OR)
Daughter Catherine Blount was murdered

McKinley Griffin (Oxford, PA)
Aunt Martha Griffin was murdered

Mary Head (Lawrence, KS)
Sister Patricia Erikson was murdered

Judith Hessman (Dodge City, KS)
Sister Mary Mel Eesa Rains was murdered

Henry Hubbard (Charlotte, NC)
Nephew T.J. Price Jr. was murdered

Marietta Jaeger Lane (Punta Gorda, FL)
Daughter Susan Marie Jaeger was murdered

Laurie Juedes (Redmond, WA)
Brother Ken Juedes was murdered

Miriam Kelle (Beatrice, NE)
Brother was murdered

Carolyn Lee (Pensacola, FL)
Mother Dorothy Edwards was murdered

Wilma Loganbill (Hesston, KS)
Son was murdered

Dawn Mancarella (West Haven, CT)
Mother Joyce Masury was murdered

Deldelp Medina (San Francisco, CA)
Aunt Magali Medina was murdered

Carolyn Metzler (Albuquerque, NM)
Relative Andy Lavern Smith was murdered

Jean Parks (Fletcher, NC)
Sister Elizabeth Parks Rosenberg was murdered

Bill Pelke (Anchorage, AK)
Grandmother Ruth Elizabeth Pelke was murdered

Bill Piper (Pennington, NJ)
Mother Arlene Piper was murdered

Corinne Rhodes (Rutland, MA)
Partner was murdered

Myra Rivera (Caguas, PR)
Daughter was murdered

Carolyn Saenz Zimmerman (Topeka, KS)
Father Lawrence Saenz was murdered

Vicki Schieber (New Market, MD)
Daughter Shannon Schieber was murdered

Judith Scott (Las Cruces, NM)
Aunt Ruth Scott was murdered

Andrew Smith (Raleigh, NC)
Son Daniel was murdered

Mark Soehner (Berkley, MI)
Sister Anne Soehner was murdered

Bonita Spikes (Upper Marlboro, MD)
Husband Michael was murdered

Elizabeth Stein (Houston, TX)
Cousin Gary Stein was murdered

Anne Stone (Farmington, CT)
Son Ralph Stone was murdered

Rev. Jack Sullivan Jr. (Raleigh, NC)
Sister Jennifer McCoy was murdered

Michelle VanDeRee (Columbia, TN)
Relative Edgar Pillow was murdered

Molly Weigel (Pennington, NJ)
Mother-in-law Arlene Piper was murdered

Terry Werner (Lincoln, NE)
Cousin Janet Mesner was murdered

Theresa Westerfield (Redington Shores, FL)
Uncle Charles Westerfield was murdered

Deborah Wiese (Port Townsend, WA)
Sister and Brother-in-law Lynn and Richard Ehlenfeldt were murdered

Hannah Yoo (Chicago, IL)
Father Kenneth Yoo was murdered


Two Percenters: 2% of Counties in USA Responsible for Most Death Sentences

We've discussed the new Harvard Law School report before, insofar as it concerns prosecutors (read our post here). 

However, this week's New York Times Magazine has taken a different view on that new research report and it's very interesting.

Read the 55-page report from Harvard's Fair Punishment Project, entitled "Too Broken to Fix" here.

The New York Times delves into the national map and considers the ramifications of the report's finding that only 2% (that's right, two percent) of the counties in the United States are tied to most of the Death Row convictions in this nation.

Sixteen counties specifically, all within 7 states, and all located in the South or on the West Coast.

List of Florida Counties in the Harvard Report's Death Penalty Two Percent

Included here are the following counties in the State of Florida: 

  • Duval
  • Hillsborough
  • Miami-Dade
  • Pinellas.


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