Florida Supreme Court and the Execution of William Van Poyck: Issue of Effective Capital Representation Spotlighted

Florida Governor Rick Scott has signed the death warrant for Florida Death Row inmate William Van Poyck and right now Mr. Van Poyck’s execution is scheduled for June 12, 2013.

However, whether or not that Execution will happen is an open question.  On May 24, 2013, a formal motion to stay the execution was filed before the Florida Supreme Court.

Read the Motion for the Execution of William Van Poyck to be stayed here.

Reason for all the hoopla over this request for stay?  It's not for the usual reasons.  This argument is causing all sorts of controversy.  Here's why.  

Capital lawyer Mark Olive and two other death penalty defense attorneys have been appointed to represent Mr. Van Poyck - but there wasn't much time for these new lawyers to get up to speed, so they asked the court for more time to do their job.  

They were told no.  No more time.  

The Florida High Court also denied attorney (and former ABA president) Sandy D’Alemberte motion to intervene in the case on behalf of attorney Olive’s behalf.  To argue that as it stood, the appointment and the denial of more time to do the job worked together to force the appointed lawyers into a Catch 22 where they were in the role of lawyer but unable to do their job for their client.

Olive, D'Alemberte, and the other capital lawyers newly appointed to represent a man literally days away from the needle have been quick to act.  

Go here to read the Notice filed by Attorney Olive regarding his eleventh hour appointment to represent the convicted man: 

Notice Inability to Satisfy Schedule filed by Attorney Olive Appointed to Represent William Van Poyck

Infographic: State of the Death Penalty in 2013


Jodi Arias Trial: Arizona Death Penalty Law and Mitigating Circumstances

 As readers know, Terry Lenamon is a nationally known expert in mitigation trial work on death penalty cases.  For those watching the media coverage of the Arias' case, the work to which Terry has dedicated his life is exemplified in the stage that this trial entered when the jury verdict returned with a guilty verdict.  

Here are some reference materials that those following the Jodi Arias' trial as it enters the sentencing phase may find helpful.

Jodi Arias is scheduled to take the stand on Monday as her mitigation counsel puts on their case for why the jury should exclude capital punishment for her in the death of Travis Alexander 

For those following along with the media coverage next week:

The Arizona Legislature has passed legislation (A.R.S. § 13-751) that requires two things to be found by the jury before a person can be sentenced to death in that state:

1.  proof beyond a reasonable doubt of at least one aggravating circumstance as set forth in Arizona law (A.R.S. § 13-751(F): read that law here) and

2.  finding that there are "no mitigating circumstances sufficiently substantial to call for leniency.” Mitigation is defined as evidence relevant to “any aspect of the defendant’s character, propensities or record and any of the circumstances of the offense."  (A.R.S. § 13-751(E): read that law here.).

The Arizona Supreme Court has published its Capital Sentencing Guide online and further information is provided there, including a discussion of case law pertaining to mitigating circumstances in death penalty sentencing trials.

Both the statute and the court opinions discussing and ruling upon mitigation will be applicable to the mitigation case presented by the defense team.  

Maryland Abolishes Death Penalty: Sixth State in 6 Years To End Capital Punishment

 Last week, the Governor of the State of Maryland signed a bill presented to him by the Maryland legislature and with his signature, the death penalty was abolished in Maryland.  

In doing so, Gov. Martin O'Malley brought Maryland into the history books as the sixth state in as many years to do away with capital punishment.  If you're keeping score, these six states are shown below in dark purple (thanks to the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty for this great infographic).  

Now, Maryland becomes the 18th state to abolish the death penalty.  As for the five people who set on Maryland's Death Row, unfortunately the new law does not automatically alter their sentencing - but Governor O'Malley has stated on the record that he will be reviewing their cases, one by one, as he considers using his power to commute their death sentences.  

Meanwhile, as we posted earlier and as FoxNews points out this week, at the same time that Maryland abolished capital punishment, the Florida legislature has decided to speed up executions in the Sunshine State.  


Florida Timely Justice Bill Goes To Governor's Desk: Bad News for Florida to Put Executions on a Fast Track

 The Senate has passed the Timely Justice Bill and now all that it needs to become Florida law is the approval of Florida Governor Rick Scott.

Today, there is an excellent piece in the Sun Sentinel on what this means to justice in the Sunshine State:  it's written by  Gary Stein and it's worth your time to read.

Go here to read "Florida's fast track death penalty bill is blood-thirsty form of justice."

If that doesn't sway you that this fast tracking executions might not be the best thing to do, then consider the arguments made by former Florida Death Row resident Seth Penalver this week, a man acquitted last December after serving a good part of his life under the penalty of death for a crime he did not commit.  

Read Seth Penalver's story here.

Read Seth Penalver's message to Governor Rick Scott about the Timely Justice Bill here.

Have your own message for Governor Scott?  Click here to reach him by email. 



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