Death Penalty - States

The State of Florida wants the death penalty for 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, who has already confessed to being the shooter in the Valentine’s Day tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

For those that follow the blog, you know Terry Lenamon’s son is a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, present on the day of the shooting but thankfully unharmed. 

Read, "Terence Lenamon’s Son At Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting."

While many of the victim’s families did not want capital punishment in this case, it appears that the Broward County prosecutors have made their own decision here. 

See, "Prosecutors to seek death penalty for Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz," written by Paula McMahon and Rafael Olmeda and published by the Sun Sentinel on March 13, 2018. 

Notice of Intent to Seek the Death Penalty for Nikolas Cruz

The State of Florida filed its Notice of Intent today.  You can read the complete Notice of Intent here. 

Aggravating Factors Asserted by State Attorney

The State of Florida intends to prove the following aggravating factors beyond a reasonable doubt in support of its desire for capital punishment of Nikolas Cruz:

  1. Florida Statute 921.141(6)(b);
  2. Florida Statute 921.141(6)(c);
  3. Florida Statute 921.141(6)(d);
  4. Florida Statute 921.141(6)(g);
  5. Florida Statute 921.141(6)(h);
  6. Florida Statute 921.141(6)(i); and
  7. Florida Statute 921.141(6)(k).

See, Notice of Intent pages 2 -3. 

And so the sentencing phase of the case begins.  The defense will bring forth its allegations of mitigating factors that go against the imposition of the death penalty. 

Next Step:  the Mitigating Factors

And there will be a trial where a jury will hear arguments from both sides — a process we have discussed so many times before here on the blog, as the Sentencing (Penalty) Phase of a Death Penalty case is where Terry focuses so much of his efforts.  

 Two years ago, in January 2016, SCOTUS issued its decision in Hurst v. Florida and now, in January 2018, the Florida Supreme Court has issued its rulings in over two dozen requests by Florida Death Row inmates for new sentencing hearings based upon Hurst’s concerns regarding non-unanimous sentencing recommendations under the old Florida death penalty statute. 

These decisions have been released all this week (Jan 22 -24). More are expected. 

For details on Hurst, read our prior discussions here.

In short, the Florida Supreme Court is denying these Death Row inmates new sentencing hearings. 

The Court is using June 24, 2002, as its bright line. 

That’s the date that  SCOTUS came down with Ring v. Arizona, opining that the constitutional right to a jury trial  includes defendants facing the death penalty to have their jury find all facts that are necessary for a death sentence to be imposed.

The FSC holds Ring created new law and would not be retroactively applied to cases where direct appeals had been completed before Ring came down.

For details, read the coverage by Orlando Sentinel on January 22, 2018, entitled, "Florida Supreme Court rejects 10 Death Row appeals at same time." and the article by Stephanie Brown for WOKV-TV entitled, "FLORIDA SUPREME COURT LETS STAND DOZENS OF DEATH SENTENCES, INCLUDING 11 FROM THE FIRST COAST," which was published today. 

To read the entire SCOTUS opinion in Hurst v. Florida, go here

 

With the execution of Patrick Hannon earlier this month, the State of Florida has completed its execution schedule for 2017.  

Lenamon Victory in James Bannister Trial

Terence Lenamon has just successfully defeated attempts by prosecutors to get the death penalty in two capital cases this fall.  In both the James Bannister and William Wells prosecutions, the juries came back with verdicts imposing life without parole. 

Not death. 

What swayed the jury in the Bannister case?  We’ll share Terry’s closing argument here on the blog and in his online library in a future post.  (Read his argument in Wells here.) 

2018 Florida Capital Punishment Prosecutions 

Right now, there are no executions scheduled by the State of Florida for 2018 (most executions already on the calendar are in Ohio, some in Texas).  

And there’s a lot of people watching what will happen if SCOTUS decides to hear Hidalgo v. Arizona, because it might bring all death penalty prosecutions to a halt in this country in a similar manner to Furman years ago.  

Doesn’t change things for capital defense today.  Prosecutors are going to seek death in capital cases and death warrants will be issued next year.

Consider this:  a man has been arrested and accused of being a serial killer over in Tampa today.  Prosecutors are telling the press this afternoon they will seek the death penalty in this case.  

Hopefully Terry gets a much needed respite over the holidays — because he’s going to be very busy again next year, fighting to keep people from being killed by the state. 

 

This week in Florida, there were two major events involving capital punishment in the Sunshine State.

1.  Asay Execution With Etomidate

First, the execution of Florida Death Row inmate Mark James Asay was carried out on August 24, 2017.

This was the first execution by the State of Florida in over 19 months.  Executions have been on hold in Florida after the SCOTUS decision in Hurst ruled the Florida capital punishment statute unconstitutional.

It was also the first execution to use a new three-drug lethal injection protocol, as the Asay execution involved the use of the drug etomidate.

2.  Lack of Unanimity Denies State the Death Penalty in Kendrick Silver Trial

This week, the capital murder trial of Kendrick Silver when to a jury in Miami.  And because one single juror could not agree that Silver should be executed for his crimes, there can be no death penalty in his case.

This is the first death penalty case that has been tried to completion in Miami since the new Florida death penalty law was passed by the Florida Legislature  earlier this year.  

The new statute had to be passed into law because of the SCOTUS decision in Hurst.  

Under the new law, which requires all the jurors agree on the death penalty as the appropriate sentence, the power of a single juror is great.  As is shown in this case, where the hold-out juror found that there were sufficient mitigating circumstances to shield the defendant from death.

Foe more on mitigation in a death penalty case, read:

 

More on Florida Death Row Than Any Other State Except California

According to new research compilations by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, we know that Florida remains number two in the country for the number of people setting on its Death Row.  

Only California has more Death Row residents.  Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics May 2017.

 

 We also learn the following, as of December 31, 2015:

  • 33 states and the BOP held 2,881 inmates under sentence of death, 61 fewer than at year-end 2014. This was the fifteenth consecutive year in which the number of inmates under sentence of death decreased. 
  • Fourteen states and BOP received 49 inmates under sentence of death.
  • Six states executed 28 inmates.
  • Twenty-one states removed 82 inmates from under sentence of death by means other than execution.
  • Overall, 20 states held fewer inmates under sentence of death than a year earlier, 5 states and BOP held more inmates, and 9 held the same number.
  • The largest decline in inmates under sentence of death occurred in Texas (down 17), followed by Georgia (down 8), and Missouri (down 7).

 

As shocking as this may be, news reports are that the State of Arkansas will execute eight Death Row inmates next month, over the course of ten days. 

8 Executions Over 10 Days; Two at at Time

That’s almost one execution a day, right? Well, yes.  Except reports are that the executions are planned to occur two at a time.  That’s right: Arkansas will execute these men in pairs, two executions on the same day.

Lethal Injection Protocols In Question: What About The Drugs?

All these executions will be by lethal injection. 

Reports are that the state does not have all the proper drugs for the lethal injections.  This has not prevented the executions from being scheduled.

Will they be carried out? Will a federal court stop them?

And why now?  Arkansas has not executed anyone for TWELVE YEARS.

ACADP Tracking Efforts to Stop April Executions

For more information, including the fight to stop this mass execution next month, visit the web site of the Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (ACADP).

Governor Rick Scott signed into law SB280 earlier this week.

The bill had been unanimously approved by the Florida Senate and only three lawmakers in the Florida House of Representatives voted against it.

New Florida Death Penalty Law

What does the law provide? Now, in the State of Florida, juries in capital cases will all have to agree on the death penalty. Florida now requires unanimous juries in capital cases.

For more information, check out our earlier post that includes the full text of SB280 and its legislative progress:

Florida Legislature Moves to Pass New Laws for Death Penalty Procedure.

This week, in two opinions published by the Florida Supreme Court , it appears that the government got the green light to continue with death penalty cases.

For discussion, check out Sentencing Law and Policy and Fox35.  Many are still digesting what all these cases mean ….

Florida Supreme Court Rules Death Penalty Cases Can Move Forward

Here are the Florida Supreme Court opinions, provided for your convenience in the Terry Lenamon Online Library:

https://www.scribd.com/embeds/340148396/content?start_page=1&view_mode=scroll&access_key=key-skfIKEBpRRiUVVs1R1Al&show_recommendations=true

Right now, the 2017 Florida Legislative Session is likely to pass new legislation to help prosecutors get the death penalty back in action.  Here is what is happening up in Tallahassee:

Florida Senate SB280

In Florida, SB 280 is proceeding through the Florida Senate having made its way out of its first committee earlier this month with unanimous approval.  Next stop:  the Senate Rules Committee, where it is scheduled on the calendar for February 22, 2017, at 3:30 PM. 

SB 280, if passed into law, will require Florida juries in capital cases to have 100% juror approval of the death penalty before capital punishment could be recommended.  The judge would still be responsible for sentencing itself. 

Follow Florida Senate Bill 280 here. 

Florida House of Representatives HB527

The Florida House of Representatives has a similar proposal in HB 527.  As originally drafted, HB 527 would not only require the jury have a unanimous recommendation of death before the death penalty could be imposed, but it would also require the jury to recommend life without parole as the sentence if the jury could not reach a unanimous recommendation of the death penalty. 

HB 527 is still moving through the committee process, calendared as follows: 

  • Criminal Justice Subcommittee agenda for: 02/15/17 9:00 AM
  • Judiciary Committee agenda for: 02/21/17 4:00 PM.

Follow Florida House of Representatives Bill 527 here.