The Florida Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of death penalty reinstatement defense arguments in the capital case of Michael James Jackson, a case on Terence Lenamon’s trial docket back in April 2019.  For details, read “Hurst: Terence Lenamon Defending Michael Jackson in Jacksonville Beginning June 10, 2019.”

Florida attorney Maria Deliberato was appointed to the Jackson appeal.  Terry: “She did a great job!”

The Importance of Jackson to Florida Death Penalty Defense

In tandem with a decision involving the case of Florida Death Row inmate Bessman Okafor (State v. Okafor), the Michael James Jackson decision has confirmed the right to capital resentencing hearings in the aftermath of Hurst.

These decisions resolve the impact of State v. Poole, a Florida Supreme Court decision that came down in January 2020.  Prosecutors read Poole as an argument for rescinding orders granting Florida Death Row inmates new sentencing trials.

Jackson, together with Okafor, confirms the defense position that in Florida, these inmates are entitled to resentencing hearings before the death penalty can be reinstated in their case.

In Jackson, the State of Florida sought an extraordinary writ from the Florida Supreme Court directing the circuit court to dismiss Jackson’s penalty phase trial / resentencing hearing, while reinstating his vacated death sentence.  As an alternative, the State of Florida sought a writ of prohibition to block the circuit court from holding the resentencing hearing / penalty phase trial under the argument that Jackson’s death sentence could not be reinstated retroactively.

For the successful defense arguments presented in the Jackson matter, read Maria Deliberato’s Response to Emergency All Writs Petition and Petition for Writ of Prohibition filed April 2, 2020, which includes the following:

The State’s Petition is a thinly veiled attempt at a belated appeal — 970 days after Mr. Jackson’s two 8-4 advisory death recommendations were vacated. The State does not possess the right to a belated appeal under any equitable, statutory, or legal authority. But for Hurricane Dorian, which forced the closure of the Duval County courts and caused Mr. Jackson’s September 2019 penalty phase trial to be postponed at the last minute, his resentencing would already be complete.

Despite the State’s arguments to the contrary, this Court’s ultimate jurisdiction over death penalty cases is not in jeopardy. Granting the Petition would not only be a violation of Mr. Jackson’s due process, equal protection, Sixth Amendment, and Eighth Amendment rights, but would also result in this Court ignoring or reversing decades-long precedent regarding finality of judgments and affirmative waivers of appellate remedies. The effect would be to destabilize Florida’s entire judicial system. This Court should deny the Petition and remand Mr. Jackson’s case to the circuit court to conduct his previously scheduled penalty phase trial.

Response, page 3.

For more on Florida resentencing issues in death penalty cases in the aftermath of the Supreme Court of United States’ ruling in Hurst v. Florida, see: