Legal Issues - Death Penalty

Today, Florida Death Penalty defense strategies are dealing with the aftermath of Hurst v. Florida, where the impact of a jury in a capital punishment case was forever changed by the Supreme Court of the United States.

For details, read our past discussions:

In 2019, the procedural changes mandated by Hurst are not the only consideration that capital case defense lawyers like Terry Lenamon must consider.  There is also the impact of Pope Francis’ declaration upon capital case jury selection in Florida.

See:  Pope Francis Changes Catechism on Death Penalty: What Does This Mean to Capital Cases?

Risks Resulting from Catholic Opposition of Death Penalty

A recent article written by law professor Aliza Plener Cover delves into the impact of Pope Francis’s proclamation and how it might end up with a harder row to hoe for Death Penalty defense teams.

From her position as associate professor at the University of Idaho College of Law, Professor Cover asks excellent questions, including:

  • Can Catholic opposition to the death penalty actually increase the number of death sentences?
  • How does Catholic opposition to the death penalty intensify the risk of minority defendants being sentenced to death?

Read Death Penalty Essay by Professor Cover

Read an excerpt of her article as it appears in the Washington Post, “Could the pope’s call to end the death penalty keep Catholics off juries?

You can also read Professor Cover’s full essay, published in the Yale Law Journal Forum on December 3, 2018.  See: Cover, Aliza. “The Pope and the Capital Juror.” Yale Law Journal Forum (Forthcoming). 2018.

Point to Ponder:  Consider how jury selection in Florida may be impacted by the influences discussed by Professor Cover and how Florida Capital Case Defense Lawyers must include considerations of Catholics being excluded during jury selection.  How might this impact the jury panel who must decide on whether or not the defendant should be sentenced to death?

 

What is a Petition for Writ of Prohibition? Death Penalty Defense and Petitions for Writs

In Florida, several requests can be filed with the appellate court while a death penalty trial is ongoing.  Parties can seek appellate review and issuance of appellate exercises of power that include writs of mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto, certiorari, and habeas corpus, and all writs necessary to the complete exercise of the courts’ jurisdiction as well as for review of nonfinal administrative action.  See, Article V, section 4(b)(3) of the Florida Constitution; Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure 9.100 (Original Proceedings).

Lenamon Files Petition for Writ of Prohibition During Loyd Trial

Terence Lenamon recently filed a petition with a Florida appeals court in the Markeith Loyd death penalty case.  The filing is requesting a writ of prohibition restraining the Honorable Frederick Lauten, Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of the Ninth Judicial Circuit in and for Orange County, Florida, from presiding as the judge in this matter.

Petition, page 6.

It is being sought following “the denial of a timely filed motion for disqualification where Mr. Loyd established that he is fearful that he will not receive a fair trial, or that he will suffer prejudice or bias from the court. This petition is premised on the Florida Rules of Judicial Administration, Florida Statutes, and the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct, all of which require that a judge disqualify himself once the defendant has established a reasonable fear that he will not obtain a fair hearing.”

Petition, page 6.

What is a Writ of Prohibition?

Writs are a integral component of our justice system; historically, they originated in the courts of Great Britain (for a history of the use of writs in England, India, etc. go here).

In sum, a writ is an official action taken by a higher court (like the Florida appellate court), ordering a lower court to do something – or to stop doing something.

In Mr. Lenamon’s request, he is seeking the appellate court’s review of the disqualification motion filed in the Markeith Loyd matter, where the defense requested the trial judge recuse himself, which was denied.

What are the details here?  Why ask that the judge not preside over the case?  There are several arguments, which are detailed along with their factual support in the Petition itself.

Full Text of Petition for Writ of Prohibition in Florida’s Markeith Loyd Death Penalty Case

To review a true and correct copy of the Petition for Writ of Prohibition filed by Terry Lenamon in the Markeith Loyd matter, click on the image below.  The court filing has been uploaded into the Terry Lenamon Online Library:

Note: On January 22, 2019, the Petition for Writ of Prohibition was denied by the District Court of Appeal of the State of Florida Fifth District.

Markeith Loyd Trial: Judge Denies Recusal Request

This week, Orange-Osceola Chief Judge Frederick Lauten denied the defense motion seeking his recusal, filed by Terence Lenamon on December 5, 2018.  See, “Chief judge won’t recuse himself in Markeith Loyd case,” written by Gal Tziperman Lotan and published by the Orlando Sentinel on December 10, 2018.

 

Excerpt from the Motion: Fair Trial or Prejudice

The following excerpt explains some of the defense arguments regarding how it is feared that the defendant in this capital case will not get a fair trial or that he will be prejudiced in some way:

First. the   method   in  which    this  Court    stated   that   it  was  appointed   to  the   case   is contradicted  by the  order of appointment.  The  original  order of appointment  states the Court  was  appointed via  a method of judicial  rotation.  Conversely. the  Court  stated he directed  the  Administrative Judge  to  transfer  the case  to  him.  Both  of these  cannot be accurate. and  based  on  that  incongruity,  Defendant fears  that  he  will  not  receive a  fair trial.  or that  he will  suffer  prejudice or bias  from the  Court.

Second. the  Court  ignored  or downplayed   obvious deficits  in the  Defendant’s mental state  that  could   not  pass  muster in  a proper Faretra  hearing,  and  the  Court consequently failed to initially  appoint  standby counsel. This causes  the  Defendant to be fearful  that  he will not  receive a fair trial, or that  he will  suffer prejudice or bias  from the Court.

Third. the  Court  was  significantly  active   in  investigations  concerning  Defendant  both prior  to  his  appointment  and  during  his  initial  period  as the  assigned judge of the  instant cases.  He  signed in  excess of twelve warrants, some  of which  were apparently concealed from  the  Stale and defense  by the  police officers.  One  of the  warrants requested  that  the Court  not  disclose information  because of the  ongoing  nature   of the  investigation. Court’s   intimate   involvement   in   these   investigations.   combined   with   the   fact   that Defendant   only  very   recently   learned   about   such   involvement   in   any   detail.   causes Defendant to  fear  that  he  will  not  receive  a  fair  trial.  or that he  will  suffer  prejudice  or bias  from  the  Court.

Fourth.  the Court did not comply  with  Florida  Statutes  934.09(8)(e),  which  requires that the  issuing  Judge  “shall  cause  to  be  served  on  the  persons  named  in  the  order or the application.  and   such   other   parties  to  intercepted  communications  as  the  judge  ma. determine in  his or her discretion  to be in the  interest  of justice,  an inventory  which  shall  include  notice  of:

  1. The  fact or the entry of the order  or the application
  2. The  date  of the  entry and  the  period   of authorized,  approved. or disapproved  interception. or the denial  of the  application
  3. The  fact  that during the period wire, oral  or electronic communications were  or were  not  intercepted.”

Although the Defendant  was named  in at least one wiretap order.  he was not served  with the  notice  required  under  934.09(8)(c).  The  Court’s   failure  to  provide  the   requisite notice  tu  Defendant on an important issue causes  Defendant  to  be fearful  that he  will not receive  a fair trial. or that he will suffer prejudice or bias  from the Court.

Finally. the  cumulative   impact  of  the  Court’s  actions   (or  inactions)  discussed  herein causes  Defendant  to  be  fearful  that  he will  not  receive  a fair trial.  or that  he  will  suffer prejudice or bias  from the Court.

Click on the image to read the full text of the Motion, as filed of record, which has been placed into the Terence Lenamon Online Library:

 

This week, seven Florida capital cases were decided by the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) as the High Court issued its orders denying future consideration of requests made by Florida Death Row inmates.

All of these cases ask SCOTUS to review decisions made by the Florida Supreme Court as it applies the SCOTUS decision in Hurst v. Florida.

We’ve discussed Hurst before; in sum, SCOTUS found the Florida death penalty statute was unconstitutional because juries did not decide whether or not there were sufficient aggravating factors to impose death (under the law, the judge decided on capital punishment).  When Hurst came down, it meant that Florida Death Row inmates who were sentenced to death under an unconstitutional process were due new sentencing trials.  They began filing appeals, among them these seven whose writs were denied this Tuesday.

See:

Seven Florida Petitions Based Upon Hurst Denied by SCOTUS This Week

Specifically, the seven Florida capital cases are as follows (linked to their respective SCOTUS Docket pages):

Franklin v. Florida, 18-5228

11-13-18 Order:  Petition DENIED. Justice Thomas, concurring in the denial of certiorari: I concur for the reasons set out in Reynolds v. Florida, 586 U. S. ___ (2018) (Thomas, J., concurring). Justice Sotomayor, dissenting from the denial of certiorari: I dissent for the reasons set out in Reynolds v. Florida, 586 U. S. ___ (2018) (Sotomayor, J., dissenting).

Grim v. Florida, 18-5518

11-13-18 Order:  Petition DENIED. Justice Thomas, concurring in the denial of certiorari: I concur for the reasons set out in Reynolds v. Florida, 586 U. S. ___ (2018) (Thomas, J., concurring). Justice Sotomayor, dissenting from the denial of certiorari: I dissent for the reasons set out in Reynolds v. Florida, 586 U. S. ___ (2018) (Sotomayor, J., dissenting).

Guardado v. Florida, 17-9284

11-13-18 Order:  Petition DENIED. Justice Thomas, concurring in the denial of certiorari: I concur for the reasons set out in Reynolds v. Florida, 586 U. S. ___ (2018) (Thomas, J., concurring). Justice Sotomayor, dissenting from the denial of certiorari: I dissent for the reasons set out in Reynolds v. Florida, 586 U. S. ___ (2018) (Sotomayor, J., dissenting).

Johnston v. Florida, 18-5793

11-13-18 Order:  Petition DENIED. Justice Thomas, concurring in the denial of certiorari: I concur for the reasons set out in Reynolds v. Florida, 586 U. S. ___ (2018) (Thomas, J., concurring). Justice Sotomayor, dissenting from the denial of certiorari: I dissent for the reasons set out in Reynolds v. Florida, 586 U. S. ___ (2018) (Sotomayor, J., dissenting).

Philmore v. Florida, 17-9556

11-13-18 Order:  Petition DENIED. Justice Thomas, concurring in the denial of certiorari: I concur for the reasons set out in Reynolds v. Florida, 586 U. S. ___ (2018) (Thomas, J., concurring). Justice Sotomayor, dissenting from the denial of certiorari: I dissent for the reasons set out in Reynolds v. Florida, 586 U. S. ___ (2018) (Sotomayor, J., dissenting).

Reynolds v. Florida, 18-5181

11-13-18 Order:  Petition DENIED. Statement of Justice Breyer respecting the denial of certiorari. (Detached). Justice Thomas, concurring in the denial of certiorari. (Detached Opinion). Justice Sotomayor, dissenting from denial of certiorari. (Detached Opinion).

Tanzi v. Florida, 18-5160

11-13-18 Order:  Petition DENIED. Justice Thomas, concurring in the denial of certiorari: I concur for the reasons set out in Reynolds v. Florida, 586 U. S. ___ (2018) (Thomas, J., concurring). Justice Sotomayor, dissenting from the denial of certiorari: I dissent for the reasons set out in Reynolds v. Florida, 586 U. S. ___ (2018) (Sotomayor, J., dissenting).

Revelation of Three Justices’ Viewpoints on Death Penalty

Most of the Justices simply agreed with the order denying writ; however, three felt passionately enough about the issue to write on the subject.  Sotomayor dissented; both Thomas and Breyer concurred.

1.  Sotomayor Dissent

Once again, Justice Sotomayor dissented in these death penalty cases arguing that the petitions for writ of certiorari should have been granted.  She writes that while each of the seven petitions deal with “gruesome crimes” there should be consideration of the constitutional issues raised by the Death Row Inmates.

From  Justice Sotomayor’s Dissent in Reynolds:

“Today, this Court denies the petitions of seven capital defendants, each of whom was sentenced to death under a capital sentencing scheme that this Court has since declared unconstitutional.  The Florida Supreme Court has left the petitioners’ death sentences undisturbed, reasoning that any sentencing error in their cases was harmless. Petitioners challenge the Florida Supreme Court’s analysis because it treats the fact of unanimous jury recommendations in their cases as highly significant, or legally dispositive, even though those juries were told repeatedly that their verdicts were merely advisory. I have dissented before from this Court’s failure to intervene on this issue. Petitioners’ constitutional claim is substantial and affects numerous capital defendants. The consequence of error in these cases is too severe to leave petitioners’ challenges unanswered, and I therefore would grant the petitions.

“[T]his Court’s Eighth Amendment jurisprudence has taken as a given that capital sentencers would view their task as the serious one of determining whether a specific human being should die at the hands of the State.” Caldwell, 472 U. S., at 329. The jurors in petitioners’ cases were repeatedly instructed that their role was merely advisory, yet the Florida Supreme Court has treated their recommendations as legally binding by way of its harmlesserror analysis. This approach raises substantial Eighth Amendment concerns. As I continue to believe that “the stakes in capital cases are too high to ignore such constitutional challenges,” Truehill v. Florida, 583 U. S. ___, ___ (2017) (slip op., at 2), I would grant review to decide whether the Florida Supreme Court’s harmless-error approach is valid in light of Caldwell. This Court’s refusal to address petitioners’ challenges signals that it is unwilling to decide this issue. I respectfully dissent from the denial of certiorari, and I will continue to note my dissent in future cases raising the Caldwell question.”

2.  Thomas Concurrence

Justice Thomas concurred with the decision to deny these petitions; he is clear it has already been decided the Eighth Amendment (against cruel and unusual punishment) is not violated by the death penalty.

From the Reynolds concurrence by Justice Thomas:

“JUSTICE BREYER’s final (and actual) concern is with the “‘death penalty itself.’” Ante, at 4. As I have elsewhere explained, “it is clear that the Eighth Amendment does not prohibit the death penalty.” Baze v. Rees, 553 U. S 35, 94 (2008) (opinion concurring in judgment); see Glossip, supra, at ___–___, and n. 1 (THOMAS, J., concurring) (slip op., at 1–2, and n. 1). The only thing “cruel and unusual” in this case was petitioner’s brutal murder of three innocent victims.”

3. Breyer Concurrence

There is also a concurrence from Justice Breyer, where he explains his position on these denials. He does express concerns about capital punishment in this country – not on the act itself, but in how long it is taking to execute those sentenced to death.  He calls the delays “unconscionable.”  He also has concerns about the retroactive application of Hurst and how judges and juries make the decision to sentence the accused to death (in Florida and elsewhere).

From  Justice Breyer’s concurrence:

“It seems to me that the jurors in at least some of these cases might not have made a “community-based judgment” that a death sentence was “proper retribution” had they known at the time of sentencing (1) that the death penalty might not be administered for another 40 years or more; (2) that other defendants who were sentenced years later would be entitled to resentencing based on a later-discovered error, but that the defendants in question would not be entitled to the same remedy for roughly the same error; or (3) that the jury’s death recommendation would be treated as if it were decisive, despite the judge’s instruction that the jury’s recommendation was merely advisory. Had jurors known about these issues at the time of sentencing, some might have hesitated before recommending a death sentence. At least a few might have recommended a life sentence instead. The result is that some defendants who have lived under threat of execution for decades might never have been sentenced to death in the first place.

“The flaws in the current practice of capital punishment could often cast serious doubt on the death sentences imposed in these and other capital cases. Rather than attempting to address the flaws in piecemeal fashion, however, I remain of the view that “it would be wiser to reconsider the root cause of the problem—the constitutionality of the death penalty itself.”

The Washington Supreme Court has found the death penalty to be unconstitutional because it violates the state constitution, specifically Article 1, Section 14, which states, “[e]xcessive bail shall not be required, excessive fines imposed, nor cruel punishment inflicted.”

State v. Gregory

From the opinion in State v. Gregory, No. 88086-7 (Wash. Oct. 11, 2018):

“The death penalty is invalid because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner. While this particular case provides an opportunity to specifically address racial disproportionality, the underlying issues that underpin our holding are rooted in the arbitrary manner in which the death penalty is generally administered.  As noted by appellant, the use of the death penalty is unequally applied—sometimes by where the crime took place, or the county of residence, or the available budgetary resources at any given point in time, or the race of the defendant. The death penalty, as administered in our state, fails to serve any legitimate penological goal; thus, it violates article I, section 14 of our state constitution.”

Before this fuels great excitement regarding abolishing capital punishment in this country, it’s important to note that Gregory starts off with the following caveat:

Washington’s death penalty laws have been declared unconstitutional not once, not twice, but three times. State v. Baker, 81 Wn.2d 281, 501 P.2d 284 (1972)State v. Green, 91 Wn.2d 431, 588 P.2d 1370 (1979)State v. Frampton, 95 Wn.2d 469, 627 P.2d 922 (1981).[1] And today, we do so again. None of these prior decisions held that the death penalty is per se unconstitutional, nor do we. The death penalty is invalid because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner. While this particular case provides an opportunity to specifically address racial disproportionality, the underlying issues that underpin our holding are rooted in the arbitrary manner in which the death penalty is generally administered. 

The Washington Supreme Court is not holding the death penalty “per se unconstitutional.”  Instead, it rules based upon how the state’s capital punishment law is carried out, and finds it is being “imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner.”

The administration of the state law by the state violates the state constitution, according to the state supreme court.

State Constitutional Holding Independent From Federal Constitution Application

The Washington Court takes great care to make sure that its ruling is clearly based solely upon its state constitution:

At the very least, article I, section 14 cannot provide for less protection than the Eighth Amendment, and in this case, we interpret it independently from the federal counterpart. Let there be no doubt — we adhere to our duty to resolve constitutional questions under our own constitution, and accordingly, we resolve this case on adequate and independent state constitutional principles. See Long, 463 U.S. at 1041-42.

 

State Constitution vs. Federal Constitution

Some may be surprised that a state supreme court can make a ruling that can withstand United State Supreme Court scrutiny.  Well, aside from some procedural arguments there is the overall reality that state governments do exist independently from the federal government.  As long as a state supreme court reads its state constitution to be more protective than the federal counterpart, its ruling will hold.

This is discussed in its cited case of  Michigan v. Long,463 U.S. 1032, 1041-1042, 103 S. Ct. 3469, 77 L. Ed. 2d 1201 (1983), where SCOTUS states:

The principle that we will not review judgments of state courts that rest on adequate and independent state grounds is based, in part, on “the limitations of our own jurisdiction.”  Herb v. Pitcairn, 324 U. S. 117, 125 (1945).

Will Gregory result in more capital punishment challenges being filed before state supreme courts, arguing against their death penalty laws on “adequate and independent state grounds” and not federal constitutional arguments?

Perhaps.  Of some interest, let’s not forget that this month marks the October 2016 anniversary of Hurst and Perry opinions by the Florida Supreme Court insofar as the Florida Death Penalty Law.  Something to ponder.

 

In Fall 2018, SCOTUS will consider two cases that deal with the death penalty:

1. Bucklew v. Precythe

Bucklew v. Precythe, SCOTUS Docket No. 17-8151, asks SCOTUS to consider if the medical condition of a Death Row Inmate can cause the lethal injection method of execution to be “cruel and unusual” punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

Issues Presented

  1. Should a court evaluating an as-applied challenge to a state’s method of execution based on an inmate’s rare and severe medical condition assume that medical personnel are competent to manage his condition and that the procedure will go as intended?
  2. Must evidence comparing a state’s proposed method of execution with an alternative proposed by an inmate be offered via a single witness, or should a court at summary judgment look to the record as a whole to determine whether a factfinder could conclude that the two methods significantly differ in the risks they pose to the inmate?
  3. Does the Eighth Amendment require an inmate to prove an adequate alternative method of execution when raising an as-applied challenge to the state’s proposed method of execution based on his rare and severe medical condition?

Read the Petition for Writ of Certiorari.

Read the Amicus Curaie Brief filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Underlying Facts

Russell Bucklew suffers from a congenital medical condition that may well cause him to hemorrhage during any execution involving lethal injection where he would potentially choke on his own blood.

Mr. Bucklew offers the alternative execution method of death by nitrogen hypoxia.

He also requests that to be informed of the medical qualifications of two executioners (members of the Missouri lethal injection team).  Bucklew alleges they may not have the qualifications necessary for the position of lethal injection executioner.

Oral Argument

Bucklew is scheduled for oral argument on November 6, 2018.

 

 

2.  Madison v. Alabama

Madison v. Alabama, SCOTUS Docket No. 17-7505, asks the Supreme Court to consider whether or not it violates the federal constitution to allow an individual to be executed when he or she cannot remember the crime for which they have been sentenced to death.

Issues Presented

  1. Consistent with the Eighth Amendment, and this Court’s decisions in Ford and Panetti, may the State execute a prisoner whose mental disability leaves him without memory of his commission of the capital offense? See Dunn v. Madison, 138 S. Ct. 9, 12 (Nov. 6, 2017) (Ginsburg, J., with Breyer, J., and Sotomayor, J., concurring).
  2. Do evolving standards of decency and the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment bar the execution of a prisoner whose competency has been compromised by vascular dementia and multiple strokes causing severe cognitive dysfunction and a degenerative medical condition which prevents him from remembering the crime for which he was convicted or understanding the circumstances of his scheduled execution?

Underlying Facts

During the 30 years that Vernon Madison has spent on Alabama’s Death Row, he has had several strokes and now suffers from dementia.  Mr. Madison cannot remember his arrest, his trial, much less the underlying crime for which he was convicted.

Read the Petition for Writ of Certiorari.

Read the Amicus Curaie Brief submitted by the American Psychological Association.

Oral Argument

Madison was argued on October 2, 2018.  Read the oral argument transcript here.

The website WildAboutTrial.com promotes itself as providing “the nation’s hottest criminal trial coverage.”   Not only does the site provide background information regarding pending criminal proceedings, it often provides live coverage from the courtroom as things are happening.

Site Shares Live Courtroom Coverage

Today, for instance, they are sharing coverage of the sentencing hearing for Bill Cosby (details provided here).  The hearing is not live but the site is tweeting as things are happening in the Cosby case up in Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, the site is providing live coverage of the courtroom proceedings in the Illinois trial of Jason Van Dyke.  Watch the live stream.

Markeith Loyd Hearings on WildAboutTrial.com

For those following Terry Lenamon’s defense in the Markeith Loyd trial — including (1) his arguments regarding race and the death penalty and (2) the notice that the defense intends to call former state prosecutor Aramis Ayala as a mitigation witness, if necessary, this site may be of interest.

WildAboutTrial.com has a dedicated web page for the Markeith Loyd proceedings.

While the most recent hearing has yet to be uploaded into their archives, you can watch the June 12, 2018 proceedings.

Read Court Filings in Defense of Markeith Loyd

For more on the Markeith Loyd’s defense, read:

Defense To Call State Attorney Ayala as Mitigation Witness Against Death Penalty in Markeith Loyd Case

 

Florida prosecutor Aramis Ayala took a stand against the death penalty which resulted in Florida Governor Scott removing two dozen cases from her docket. For details, read the media coverage published by the Miami Herald on June 28, 2017, written by Steve Bousquet: “Orlando prosecutor defends stance against death penalty.”

One of the cases in which Ayala served as prosecutor was the homicide case of State of Florida vs. Markeith Loyd.

Lenamon Files Notice: Will Call State Prosecutor Ayala as Defense Mitigation Witness in any Penalty Phase

Now, as part of the defense of Markeith Loyd, Terry Lenamon has filed a motion with the court that announces the intent of the defense to call State Attorney Ayala as a defense witness in the penalty phase so she may testify in the event that Markeith Loyd is convicted of a capital offense. 

State Attorney Ayala, as the elected prosecutor for the Ninth Judicial District, represented the state’s interests from the seeking of the initial grand jury indictments against Markeith Loyd to her determination that the death penalty would not be sought in this case.  (See Motion, page 4).

For details, read:

Full Text of Lenamon’s Motion to Call State Attorney Ayala in Loyd Case

A true and correct copy of the Motion to Call Ayala has been provided as part of the Terence Lenamon Online Library. 

Lenamon Motion Arguing Discrimination Based Upon Race in Florida Death Penalty / Homicide Cases

Another motion of importance was also filed yesterday by Terry Lenamon.  This one, an argument regarding constitutional violations across the State of Florida in death penalty cases based upon racial discrimination.

A true and correct copy of the Motion to Preclude is also available in the Terence Lenamon Online Library.

 

Defense Succeeds in Avoiding Death Penalty; What is Life Sentence in Florida Capital Case?

Terence Lenamon was victorious this week, as a Florida jury refused to sentence Frantzy Jean-Marie to death for the murders of Armstrong Rivere and his girlfriend Stephanie Adams back in March 2013.  For details, read the article written by Charles Rabin and published on July 25, 2018, by the Miami Herald, entitled “Jurors spare life of gang member. He didn’t pull trigger, but will spend life in prison.”

Of note, the description Rabin gives of Terry’s “fiery defense” during the prosecution’s closing arguments, where he “continually lashed out” at statements made by ASA Joshua Weintraub during closing argument.

Terrorist Boyz Trial Ends With Life Sentence

Jean-Marie was found guilty during the first phase of his capital trial that ended last month.  That part of the trial took around four months to complete.  At its conclusion, Jean-Marie was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder; four counts of attempted murder; and the crimes of conspiracy and racketeering.  He was not found guilty by the jury of two murder allegations involving a Terrorist Boyz shooting at a Jumbo’s Restaurant in October 2002.

This week’s decision by the jury concludes the second phase of the capital trial, where the jury decides on sentencing.  As we’ve discussed earlier, Florida law has changed.  Now, the jury must unanimously agree on capital punishment before the death penalty can be sentenced by the judge.  See, Florida Has New Death Penalty Law in March 2017.

What is a Life Sentence in Florida Capital Case?

Now that the jury has made its decision, what does this mean insofar as punishment?  The victory here is that the state’s request for death was not granted.  There will be no death penalty in this case.

However, as Terry explains in the Miami Herald piece, Frantzy Jean-Marie will never be free from incarceration.  He will serve a life sentence, which means spending the rest of his days behind bars in a Florida correctional facility.

As explained by the Florida Department of Corrections, “Persons receiving a life sentence for crimes committed on or after October 1, 1995, will serve a life sentence.” More specifically, from their site:

Parole in Florida was eliminated for non-capital felonies committed on or after July 1, 1984. Capital felonies resulting in a life sentence (instead of the death penalty) remained eligible for parole after serving a mandatory 25-year term. Legislative action taken May 24, 1994, and October 1, 1995, effectively eliminated parole for all capital offenses as well…. 

For more discussion on Life Sentences, read the Marshall Project’s July 2015 piece entitled “Life Without Parole.”

The State of Nevada has scheduled the execution of Scott Dozier for July 11, 2018.  The execution method will be lethal injection.  It is the state’s first execution in 12 years.

On Tuesday, the Nevada Department of Corrections announced that the Dozier Execution will involve the use of the following three drugs:

There are many reasons to be concerned about this particular execution cocktail.  Among them:

  1.  Cisatracuriam was enough of a concern that Nevada’s Eighth Judicial District Court blocked Mr. Dozier’s execution last fall because of this drug.  (Read the Nevada Supreme Court’s overturning of that decision in its May 2018 Order, which allows the execution to proceed.)
  2.  Midazolam has been approved for use in executions by the Supreme Court of the United States (see Glossip v. Gross).  However, that does not mean it is not worrisome:  it took two hours for Joseph Wood to die during his execution by the State of Arizona.  (Read the eyewitness account by reporter Michael Kiefer here.) Arizona refuses to use midazolam in any future executions.
  3. Fentanyl has never been used in an execution.

For more, read “Nevada execution plan sedative blamed for troubles elsewhere,” written by Ken Ritter for the Associated Press and published in the Miami Herald on July 5, 2018.

Our past discussions regarding lethal injection drugs include: