Players in a Death Penalty Case

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: 

 

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 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

_________________________________________

Death Penalty Closing Arguments in the Penalty Phase of James Bannister 

https://www.scribd.com/embeds/367923052/content?start_page=1&view_mode=scroll&access_key=key-Et16luXzSRUz6DATOAKi&show_recommendations=true

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 

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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: 

This week, the Marshall Project published an op-ed by Susannah Sheffer entitled "After Executions, Defense Attorneys Have Their Own Grief: a therapist on the emotional price lawyers pay to defend individuals sentenced to death."

 
As she points out so well, things are different for lawyers like Terry Lenamon who have dedicated their legal careers to defending men and women accused of capital crimes and for whom the prosecutor seeks the death penalty.  
 
Emotional Toll
 
There is the emotional toll that must be respected and cannot be underestimated when the death penalty defense attorney and his team does all that they can do, and still their client enters the execution chamber.  
 
From the article:
 
"Defense attorneys are not at the center of the death penalty story, but the penalty’s impact on these unique stakeholders is significant. It demands that we take seriously the wide-ranging implications of each execution."
 
Pressures of the Practicalities of the Practice
 
Another factor that adds more stress to the death penalty defense lawyer’s daily life which is not mentioned in her article is how these lawyers have to be savvy and smart in how they do their job, because they are dealing (for the most part) with indigent clients.  There’s not much money in the budget and there’s a life on the line.  
 
Defending against death in any scenario is emotionally harsh, but consider how difficult it is for the cases where you have to monitor how every single dime is spent and still maintain a standard of excellence?
 
Think about it.  
 
Indigent Defense in Capital Cases: Florida’s JAC
 
For more on this issue, see "Who is the JAC? What is JAC vs. Lenamon? Should You Care?" and read Terry’s amicus brief in Fletcher v. JAC for additional discussion. 

 

 In our last post, we discussed the upcoming August 2017 trial of James Bannister and gave some background information for the continuance motion filed and argued by Terence Lenamon as defense counsel for Mr. Bannister.  

It looked pretty solid then that the trial would begin this month.  

Things have changed.  

Continuance Motion Granted: Bannister Trial Rescheduled

Terry Lenamon filed another motion for continuance, and it has been granted.  Now the trial is scheduled to begin in October.  

For details, read today’s coverage in the Ocala Star Banner in an article written by Katie Pohlman entitled "Quadruple murder trial pushes to October."

Just one more lesson in how complex these capital cases are — not only factually, but procedurally.

What’s happened?  

As you will discover if you read the Ocala article, the Judge announced that there are two reasons for the trial delay.

1.  The Medical Examiner’s Schedule; and 

2.  The 11 Motions to Suppress Evidence filed by Lenamon.

Judge Pope, as quoted in the news piece, stated from the bench that both sides have "put forth a valiant effort" to get the case to trial.  

An Alibi Defense

One other factor here:  the defense’s need for additional time to investigate an alibi defense.  That’s right: an ALIBI.  

 

Update 08/10/2017

 

The Fourth Motion for Continuance (and the earlier motions as well) have been added to the Terence Lenamon Online Library.

For those of you interested in reading the actual filed motion (or to learn what a continuance motion looks like in Florida death penalty cases), here it is:

 

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 Last week, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) published its decision in McWilliams v. Dunn, a capital case coming out of Alabama where Death Row Inmate James McWilliams argued  and won that his sentencing was unconstitutional.  He did not challenge his conviction.

Independent Mental Health Expert for Death Penalty Defendants in Capital Cases

He asserted that he had a right to an independent mental health expert in his defense against the death penalty.  By not having his own psychiatrist or psychologist to investigate his history of neurological issues (including a traumatic brain injury), the defendant could not fully assert mitigating factors going against a death sentence.  

In the majority opinion (written by Justice Breyer, SCOTUS explains:

1.  If the defendant is indigent, then the state must provide a defendant with access to a mental health expert who is sufficiently available to the defense and independent from the prosecution to effectively “conduct an appropriate examination and assist in evaluation, preparation, and presentation of the defense," citing Ake v. Oklahoma.

2.  Ake requires more than just an examination. It requires that the State provide the defense with “access to a competent psychiatrist  who will conduct an appropriate [1] examination and assist in [2] evaluation, [3] preparation, and [4] presentation of the defense.”

3. The court is not deciding whether Ake requires a State to provide an indigent defendant with a qualified mental health expert retained specifically for the defense team.

Read the opinion here. 

For more on mitigation in a death penalty case’s sentencing phase, read our earlier posts including discussions on the issues of indigent defense funding; QEEG brain mapping; and the importance of mitigation specialists.

Over in Texas, the worst nightmare for any death penalty defense attorney is being played out in real life:  the allegations that a prosecutor committed serious misconduct during the capital trial, which resulted not only in the conviction of an innocent man, but his execution.

Cameron Todd Willingham was executed in 2004 for the arson deaths of his three young daughters.  He maintained his innocence always.

The Innocence Project began investigating claims of prosecutorial misconduct several years ago.  That led to a grievance being filed before the State Bar of Texas which included supporting evidence to allegations that the prosecutor that include:

1.  he made a deal with a jailhouse snitch to testify against Mr. Willingham in exchange for favorable treatment of the snitch; and 

2.  used various kinds of junk science to argue that the father had set fire to the home, killing his children.

Read the details in the Washington Post piece, " A Texas prosecutor is on trial for alleged misconduct," by Radley Balko published on May 3, 2017.  

Today, shocking many, the jury returned without any punishment for the prosecutor.  

Which makes the efforts of capital defense lawyers like Terence Lenamon all that more important and vital….

 Markieth Lloyd wants Terence Lenamon as his defense counsel – and only Terry Lenamon. 

Terence Lenamon is not discussing this issue with the media and he’s not issuing any kind of news release here. 

This post shares this current development with the blog’s readers and refers them to the following news stories for details:

"Markeith Loyd asks Miami capital punishment lawyer to represent him," by Emilee Speck, published April 3, 2017, on ClickOrlando.com. (Also published by Local10.com); and

" Markeith Loyd Told A Judge He Wants A Specific Lawyer," published April 3, 2017, at NewsTalkFlorida.com. .

The court will rule on this matter on April 12, 2017.

 

With all the hoopla surrounding the Florida death penalty statute (see our prior posts), some may be wondering what capital defense lawyers in Florida are doing right now.  Well, there are those sentencing hearings, right? 

Lenamon is Defending a Murder Case in Miami

And there are still murder trials.  The prosecutors are still busy trying homicide cases in Florida, no matter what controversy surrounds seeking the death penalty right now. 

Like the one that Terence Lenamon is involved in this month over in Miami. 

Back in 2008, a North Miami pawn shop owner named Marty Sprung was shot and killed.  Check out the 2008 Spot Crime report here.

Last Thursday trial began in the murder trial where Stevenson Charles is being accused of killing the pawn shop owner.  The District Attorney’s Office is seeking life imprisonment for the crime.

Terry Lenamon is defense counsel in the murder mystery case. 

Read the details of the story here in the Miami Herald coverage, "Who killed pawnshop owner? Miami jury to decide identity of killer."  It’s a real life whodunit in the article by David Ovalle, published on January 19, 2017.