Last month, as the Casey Anthony trial was underway, a federal district court judge issued an opinion that has longreaching implications (and caused Anthony’s defense attorneys to immediately move, albeit unsuccessfully, for a mistrial):  the federal judge ruled that Florida’s death penalty statute was in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Federal Judge Finds Florida Death Penalty Statute Violates U.S. Constitution

The case, Evans v. McNeil, involved a petition for writ of habeas corpus, filed as Case No. 08-14402 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Miami Division.  The full text of the ruling can be downloaded here

In sum, the court found that the Florida Death Penalty Statute violated Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584 (2002), and was therefore unconstitutional. 

Terry Gives His Opinion to the Media Regarding the Ruling that the Florida Statute Is Unconstitutional

When Terry Lenamon was contacted by the media on this development, he explained to the Miami Herald and others that "If the case survives appeal, the Florida Legislature is going to have to modify the law to allow jurors to explain why someone deserves the death penalty."

As previously discussed here on the blog, the role of the judge vs the jury in Florida during the sentencing phase in a Florida death penalty trial is somewhat different than it may be in other states.  The Evans opinion means that jurors would take on a greater responsibility than they currently have under Florida law. 

Lenamon Moves for Stay in Joshua Fulgham Case Based on Need for Appeals Court Review

Later, Terry Lenamon made news when he filed a motion on behalf of his client,  Joshua Fulgham, who is facing the death penalty as the State pursues its case against Mr. Fulgham for the kidnapping and murder of his estranged wife, Heather Strong. 

The motion asked the Florida trial court to stay the case — put it on hold — until the federal appeals court grades the papers of the federal judge and either agrees with him, that the Florida death penalty statute is unconstitutional, or that the judge was wrong in his assessment and the law, as written, is legally sound.  

"It would be costly and fruitless for us to proceed to trial based on the fact the 11th Circuit has not ruled," Terence Lenamon argued during a status conference before the judge as reported by the Ocala media. "Our position is that we should stay these proceedings until a decision has been made."