As the Florida Capital Resource Center grows, stories like this will become more commonplace – but today, it’s a major victory we’re celebrating since the First District Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of allowing additional mitigation expertise in a pending prosecution where the death penalty is being sought.

As Terry puts it, "Our first Amicus filed on behalf of those working courageously to represent death qualified defendants in Florida!  Congrats to Rick Sichta (defendant’s trial counsel)!"  (As the founder of FCRC, Terry is understandably proud and excited about this result.)

For those interested in reading the full opinion, we’ve included it as a site download.  Meanwhile, here’s the gist of things, from the court itself:

Criminal Specialist Investigations, Inc., Petitioner, seeks a writ of certiorari quashing the trial court’s order denying a motion for additional mitigation coordinator fees in a capital case. Petitioner argues that the trial court failed to undertake the appropriate consideration of the reasonableness and necessity of the costs at issue with respect to this particular case. We agree. Accordingly, we grant the petition, quash the order under review, and remand this case for further proceedings.

The trial court appointed Rosalie Bolin as the mitigation coordinator in the case of Tajuane Dubose, who was charged with first-degree murder and shooting or throwing deadly missiles. Dubose was eligible for the death penalty, and his private court-appointed counsel hired Bolin to assist in the preparation for the penalty phase of his case, which the trial judge found was one of the most unusual and extraordinary cases he had presided over. Over the course of the case, the trial court approved several motions for mitigation coordinator fees. After the penalty phase was complete, and Dubose had been sentenced to life imprisonment, defense counsel filed an Amended Fourth and Final Ex-Parte Motion for Authorization to Incur Additional Mitigation Coordinator Fees. In the amended motion, defense counsel opined that the favorable verdict of life imprisonment was due largely to Bolin’s work on the case. He described Bolin’s role as “instrumental” and provided some detail about her work. Additionally, an itemized bill was attached to the motion, and counsel alleged that the Justice Administrative Commission (“JAC”) had no objection to the payment of the fees requested.

At a hearing where the motion was discussed, the trial judge opined that Florida law did not recognize any such position as that of a mitigation coordinator. The judge also opined that Bolin had already been paid too much and that the overpayment of mitigation coordinators was becoming a trend in capital cases.

To read and/or download the February 7, 2011, opinion of the First District Court of Appeals, go here.