Trial Lawyer's College Podcast: Terence Lenamon on the Death Penalty

Recently, Scott Glovsky interviewed Terry Lenamon for Trial Lawyer Talk.

Interview of Death Penalty Defense Lawyer Terence Lenamon

Included in the interview is a discussion of Terry's recent representation of Byron Burch.

Terry's client faced prosecutors seeking his death based upon a guilty verdict in the particularly violent murder of Brooksville schoolteacher Sarah Davis. 

As described in the Trial Lawyer Talk coverage, you'll hear Terry discuss things like: 

  • What it feels like to have a mans life in your own hands
  • The synopsis of Terry’s clients’ story (Byron Burch)
  • Childhood, Addictions, & Psychic Problems
  • How Capital Cases are distinctly different from other trial cases
  • Using integrated case approach
  • Florida litigation requirements have changed in the past couple years and will change again
  • Aggregating factors surrounding Terry’s client
  • How Terry uses TLC methods in his cases
  • How the public sees “The Death Penalty”

 

Listen to the Terence Lenamon Interview for more.  It's thirty minutes long and gives an excellent glimpse into Terry's calling of representing those whom the government has decided are worthy of execution: 

 

 

Death Penalty: Four Things to Watch in 2018

 The Marshall Project has published its analysis of the state of the Death Penalty as we enter into 2018.  See, "What to Know About the Death Penalty in 2018," by Maurice Chammah of the Marshall Project and published in the ABA Journal.

It's a good read. Taking everything that has happened - and which we know will be happening this year (like the pending SCOTUS decisions), the Marshall Project has collected them into four specific areas:

1. The Supreme Court of the United States

There's a great discussion on what might happen if Justice Kennedy retires.  And while Florida is still dealing with Hurst v. Florida, and now we've got Hidalgo v. Arizona pending before the High Court.  

See:  "Will SCOTUS Hear Hidalgo v Arizona and End the Death Penalty?"

2. The Attorney General for the United States

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is all for the death penalty. That's not news.  But the article has some interesting discussion on his dropping of the death penalty back in Alabama.  And how there is a way Sessions could "speed up executions in the states."

3. The States (Florida and Texas playing a big part here)

Big issue here, really, is getting those lethal injection drugs in order to carry out executions.  The Marshall Project points to fentanyl being used, and how the FDA blocked importing drugs from India.

See:

 4. The Counties in those States 

There are certain counties in Florida and Texas that are hot beds for death penalty issues.  Among them, the state attorneys prosecuting cases in Tampa and Orlando.  Can they implement their own ban on capital punishment simply by failing to file a notice of intent to seek the death penalty?  

Another interesting thing to ponder in the Marshall Project synopsis:  what about life without parole? How merciful is it, or it is just as cruel as death, or even more so?  

Happy New Year

 

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Terence Lenamon Closing Argument Transcript in Bannister Death Penalty Phase

 Here is the transcript of the closing argument made by Terence Lenamon in the death penalty case of James Edward Bannister.  

Lenamon Closing Argument in Death Penalty Phase:  

The jury did note vote for death after hearing this argument.  Why not?  Read it for yourself.

For more on the James Bannister case, read:

Opening Statements and Closing Arguments in James Bannister Death Penalty Trial (guilt phase)

James Bannister Victory and Florida Death Penalty in 2018

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Death Penalty Closing Arguments in the Penalty Phase of James Bannister 

Merry Christmas from Lenamon Law

 

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DPIC Year End Report for US Death Penalty 2017

 The latest Death Penalty Information Center Year End Report has been published and you can access it here. 

 

Summary of the 2017 DPIC Year End Report: 

Hidalgo v Arizona SCOTUS Update: Is No News Good News?

Updating our prior post on the case of Hidalgo v Arizona, where a petition to the Supreme Court of the United States has been filed on behalf of Arizona Death Row inmate Abel Hidalgo. 

This is the case that some argue could result in a SCOTUS finding that capital punishment is unconstitutional. For details read our earlier post, "Will SCOTUS Hear Hidalgo v Arizona and End the Death Penalty?"

Supreme Court On Holiday 

SCOTUS has adjourned for its holiday break.  The next time that the Justices will meet to consider things ("scheduling conference") is on January 5, 2018.

SCOTUS did have Hidalgo v Arizona on the table this month.  It was part of the December 1st conference. 

But they didn't go either way on the petition (request).  Didn't deny writ, didn't grant it. 

Arizona Court Record Sent to SCOTUS on December 11, 2017

They did do something:  

On December 6th, SCOTUS sent for the lower court record. The record was received by the High Court yesterday (12/11/17).  

So what does it mean that the Arizona record was requested two days before the formal scheduling conference?  

As SCOTUS blog has explained in its coverage, this gives a hint of sorts.  Some think it means that there will be a denial of Hidalgo's request but that a justice (SCOTUS thinks it's probably Justice Breyer) is writing an explanation of his or her position on why writ should be granted. 

But we don't know this is accurate. So, maybe no news is good news, right? 

 

 

Opening Statements and Closing Arguments in James Bannister Death Penalty Trial

What do the prosecutors and the defense attorneys say to the jury in a death penalty case, when those 12 people are going to decide whether or not the defendant should be sentenced to death?

Real life isn't like those short speeches we see on the TV shows like Law and Order.  For those interested in the process and how death penalty trials work -- and specifically, what Terence Lenamon said to the jury in the Bannister case where the jury came back for Life, not Death, we have added the following into Terry's Online Libary:

 

Death Penalty Trial Opening Statements: Trial Transcripts

 

 

Closing Arguments by State and Defense in Death Penalty Trial of James Bannister

James Bannister Victory and Florida Death Penalty in 2018

With the execution of Patrick Hannon earlier this month, the State of Florida has completed its execution schedule for 2017.  

Lenamon Victory in James Bannister Trial

Terence Lenamon has just successfully defeated attempts by prosecutors to get the death penalty in two capital cases this fall.  In both the James Bannister and William Wells prosecutions, the juries came back with verdicts imposing life without parole. 

Not death. 

What swayed the jury in the Bannister case?  We'll share Terry's closing argument here on the blog and in his online library in a future post.  (Read his argument in Wells here.) 

2018 Florida Capital Punishment Prosecutions 

Right now, there are no executions scheduled by the State of Florida for 2018 (most executions already on the calendar are in Ohio, some in Texas).  

And there's a lot of people watching what will happen if SCOTUS decides to hear Hidalgo v. Arizona, because it might bring all death penalty prosecutions to a halt in this country in a similar manner to Furman years ago.  

Doesn't change things for capital defense today.  Prosecutors are going to seek death in capital cases and death warrants will be issued next year.

Consider this:  a man has been arrested and accused of being a serial killer over in Tampa today.  Prosecutors are telling the press this afternoon they will seek the death penalty in this case.  

Hopefully Terry gets a much needed respite over the holidays -- because he's going to be very busy again next year, fighting to keep people from being killed by the state. 

 

Happy Thanksgiving 2017!

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Will SCOTUS Hear Hidalgo v Arizona and End the Death Penalty?

Right now, there is a petition before the Supreme Court of the United States coming out of the State of Arizona.  If SCOTUS agrees to hear this case, then it's a big deal.  It may be the 21st Century's Furman v. Georgia.

Hidalgo v Arizona Petition Before SCOTUS

The case is Hidalgo v. Arizona.  Follow it here.

Why is it a big deal?  Key to the petition is the issue of "aggravating factors" and how they work.  Each state has its own list.  (See Terry's list of state aggravating factors and mitigating circumstances here.)

In Arizona, they've added so many factors to the list that anyone convicted of murder can face death in that state.  There's also a budget argument, some Arizona counties are more likely to seek death because they can afford it. 

Tribe's Op-Ed Argues Hidalgo to Strike Down the Death Penalty

Lots of illustrious folk are voicing their concerns over capital punishment and their interest in the High Court rendering its opinion in Hidalgo.  But if you just want to read one, check out Laurence Tribe's op-ed in the Washington Post, "The Supreme Court Should Strike Down the Death Penalty."

Amicus Briefs Filed in Hidalgo

Also check out the amicus briefs:

  1. Brief filed by Amnesty International
  2. Brief filed by Fair Punishment Project
  3. Brief filed by The Promise of Justice Initiative
  4. Brief filed by Former and Current Arizona Judges, Prosecutors, Defenders, Legislators and Others.

 

James Bannister Trial: Penalty Phase Begins Monday

Today, the jury came back with a guilty verdict in the capital murder trial of James Bannister. 

Terence Lenamon is defending in the case with co-counsel Tania Alavi. Of course, this is only the beginning for Terry and Tania: starting on Monday, there will be the fight against the death penalty that is being requested by the State of Florida.

Penalty Phase Starts on Monday

Beginning next week, the focus will be upon arguing to the jury that mitigating circumstances outweigh the aggravating factors urged by the prosecution, and that the sentencing should forego death for LWOP (life sentence without the possibility of parole).

What will Terry argue?  Each case is different. 

However, for those interested in these matters, there is the recent closing that he gave in the Wells case where the jury nixed death after considering Terry's arguments for mercy.

Read that closing here: 

Penalty Phase Closing Argument in William Wells adv Florida 

Closing Argument in Death Penalty Trial of William Wells

 Terence Lenamon argued against the imposition of the death penalty in the William Wells case last month, and the result was a jury finding that Wells should not receive death but instead life without parole.

The jurors' determination was based upon consideration of the aggravating factors argued by the State as they balanced against the mitigating circumstances urged by Terry.  Mercy won:

 

So, what did Terry argue to these twelve jurors that resulted in four of them deciding against capital punishment?  

Read his Closing Argument here, stored for future reference in the Terence Lenamon Online Library:

Penalty Phase Closing Argument in William Wells adv Florida 

Death Penalty Defense Lawyer Details Defending Against Death in Scott Glovsky Interview

Over in California, lawyer Scott Glovsky creates podcasts of his talks with fellow trial attorneys, those he considers to be the great trial lawyers in the United States today, published on his site as "Trial Lawyer Talk." 

Terry Lenamon Interview: "Trial Lawyer Talk"

This month, he spoke with Terence Lenamon.  It's a lawyer to lawyer chat.  And it provides fascinating details of how these capital cases are investigated as well as tried. 

It's a death penalty lawyer going into detail about a specific capital case. 

The interview covers 36 minutes and can be heard here, as episode 38, where Terry discusses (1) facts of the case as well as (2) his experience in defending Byron Burch, who was accused of killing his elderly aunt in a horrific manner.  What about DNA?  What about mental illness?

Burch was convicted of the crime, but Terry successfully blocked the state's desire for capital punishment in the case.  Instead, Burch was sentenced to life in prison without parole.  

This was a hard-fought victory for Terry, where Florida law at the time allowed a jury to vote 7 to 5 in favor of death for the state to win its desire for capital punishment.  Things have changed since then, of course. 

Opening Statement in Terry Lenamon's Online Library

What more details?  You can read his opening statement in the Burch case as well as the state's opening to learn what the jury heard in that case. 

Watch the Burch Penalty Hearing

There is also a YouTube video of the actual penalty hearing if you want to watch how these things progress, and see Terry in action. Watch it here: 

Florida Jury Instructions in Capital Cases: SCOTUS Denies Cert in Truehill and Oliver

The Supreme Court of the United States has denied certiorari in two important Florida death penalty appeals, which questioned current jury instructions given in capital cases. 

SCOTUS Dissent in Challenge to Florida Jury Instructions in Death Penalty Cases

From Justice Sotomayer, a dissent joined by Justice Ginsburg and Justice Breyer, stating in part:

“At least twice now, capital defendants in Florida have raised an important Eighth Amendment challenge to their death sentences that the Florida Supreme Court has failed to address. Specifically, those capital defendants, petitioners here, argue that the jury instructions in their cases impermissibly diminished the jurors’ sense of responsibility as to the ultimate determination of death by repeatedly emphasizing that their verdict was merely advisory. “This Court has always premised its capital punishment decisions on the assumption that a capital sentencing jury recognizes the gravity of its task,” and we have thus found unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment comments that “minimize the jury’s sense of responsibility for determining the appropriateness of death.” Caldwell v. Mississippi, 472 U. S. 320, 341 (1985). ….

“Because petitioners here raised a potentially meritorious Eighth Amendment challenge to their death sentences, and because the stakes in capital cases are too high to ignore such constitutional challenges, I dissent from the Court’s refusal to correct that error.”

Read the full dissent in Truehill v. Florida / Oliver v. Florida, placed for future reference in the Terence Lenamon Online Library:

  

 

 
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