Read and Watch WLRN News Story: "Cell 1: Florida's Death Penalty in Limbo"

This week was the debut of "Cell 1: Florida’s Death Penalty in Limbo," which is a special production of WLRN News.

Read the story online in six parts.

Here's a short 3 minute overview:

Federal Death Penalty for Dylann Roof in Charleston Church Shooting

The jury has made its decision in the case of Dylann Roof, charged with the shooting deaths of nine people attending church in Charleston, South Carolina.  Roof has been sentenced to death.

Federal Hate Crime Death Sentence

As the Associated Press reports, this is the first time that an individual has been sentenced to death in this country for what has been designated as a "hate crime." 

Roof represented himself before the jury.  Read details of his statements prior to sentencing in the CBS News coverage, " Dylann Roof sentenced to death for Charleston church shooting."

Moratorium on Federal Death Penalty

Right now, there is a federal moratorium on the death penalty.  There are 62 Federal Death Row Inmates on the federal government's Death Row.  Dylann Roof apparently will be number 63, joining Death Row inmates like Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Boston Marathon Bomber. 

Will Federal Moratorium on Death Penalty End?

What will happen during the new Presidential Administration?  Some suggest that Trump will change the moratorium and federal executions will proceed. 

Florida Supreme Court Rules on Post-Hurst Sentencing Hearings

Right before Christmas (on December 22nd), the Florida Supreme Court issued two opinions that answer the question of vacating the death sentences of Florida Death Row inmates after the SCOTUS ruling that their capital punishment had been decided unconstitutionally (Hurst).

Asay v State and Mosley v State

The two cases are Asay v State of Florida and Mosley v State of Florida.  Both opinions have been stored for your convenience in the Terence Lenamon Online Library. (Click the link in the left sidebar.)

Hearing for Mosley; Not for Asay

In sum, Asay holds that Mark James Asay does not get a new sentencing hearing because he had finished his direct appeal process before the SCOTUS decision in Ring v. Arizona. 

In Mosley, the High Court finds that he was sentenced to death by a judge who disregarded the jury's recommendation and did so after Ring v. Arizona.  He gets a new sentencing hearing.

Read Mosley here: 


Happy 2017!


What Happens To Pending Florida Death Penalty Trials?

What happens with the current Florida prosecutions, where the death penalty is being sought by prosecutors?

Here's a great article using in part the example of the Michael Lamar Woods' case, where Terence Lenamon acts a defense counsel. 

Jury Instructions in Death Penalty Cases

Read all about how things are working in the current legal limbo in the piece written by Nicky Gorny for the Ocala Star Banner and published on December 15, 2016, in "On hold: Death penalty debate affects Marion defendants," with quotes from Terry Lenamon.

Key here, Jury Instructions.  Terry explains how things may be delayed because of the need for proper jury instructions in capital cases.


Florida Plan to Use Etomidate in Lethal Injection Executions?

News reports are the State of Florida is getting ready to execute more folk, even though SCOTUS and the Supreme Court of Florida pretty much have Florida executions on hold right now indefinitely. 

Florida Lethal Injections Executions With Etomidate

The Sun Sentinel and others are reporting that the Florida Department of Corrections paid money to get its drug supply ready for upcoming lethal injections. 

This apparently includes the purchase of a new drug, one that has never been used before in an execution. 

It's called ETOMIDATE.  Read about the drug here.  It replaces midazolam in the three-drug cocktail.

Follow the details on this story, including the News Service of Florida getting the scoop by obtaining the records, in the article written by Dara Cam and published on December 5, 2016, in the Sun Sentinel, entitled "Death penalty: Florida may be pondering 'novel' lethal injection change."

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

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