Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Florida Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s sentence of death after resentencing, holding that any error in Defendant’s resentencing did not taint the jury’s recommendation for death. Defendant was convicted for the 1990 first-degree murder of Donna Burnell. The trial court sentenced Defendant to death after the new penalty phase jury recommended the death penalty by a vote of twelve to zero. On appeal, Defendant raised several claims, including a Hurst v. Florida, 136 S. Ct. 616 claim and a claim that his death sentence was disproportionate. The Supreme Court affirmed the death sentence, holding (1) Defendant’s arguments either involved no errors or errors that were harmless and not prejudicial; and (2) the cumulative effect of any errors did not deprive Defendant of a fair penalty phase hearing. View "Lowe v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of the League of Women Voters and enjoining Kenneth Detzner, Secretary of the Florida Department of State, from placing Revision 8 on the ballot for the November 2018 general election, holding that the ballot language was defective. The revision at issue sought to revise Article IX, Section 4(b) of the Florida Constitution and allow the power to authorize new charter schools to be assigned to any of a variety of potential public or private entities, rather than district school boards. The circuit court concluded that both the ballot text and summary failed to inform voters of the chief purpose and effect of the proposal and that the ballot summary was affirmatively misleading. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the ballot summary failed to inform voters of the revision’s true meaning and ramifications, and therefore, the ballot language was clearly and conclusively defective. View "Detzner v. League of Women Voters of Florida" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the postconviction court’s orders summarily denying Appellant’s fifth and sixth successive motions for postconviction relief filed under Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851, the postconviction court's order denying Appellant’s motion to amend his sixth successive postconviction motion, and the postconviction court's order denying Appellant’s motion to correct illegal sentence filed under Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.800(a), holding that Appellant was not entitled to relief on his claims. Appellant was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. Pending before the Supreme Court were Appellant’s challenges to the summary denials of his fifth and sixth successive postcondition motions and the denials of his motion to correct illegal sentence and motion to amend. The Supreme Court affirmed the postconviction court’s orders, holding that Appellant’s arguments on appeal were unavailing. View "Jimenez v. State" on Justia Law

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The circuit court denied Zakrzewski’s motion under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.851, seeking relief pursuant to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2016 decision in Hurst v. Florida. The Supreme Court of Florida affirmed the denial of relief, concluding that its prior denial of Zakrzewski’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus raising similar claims is a procedural bar to the claims at issue. All of Zakrzewski’s claims depend upon the retroactive application of Hurst, to which the court has held he is not entitled. View "Zakrzewski v. Florida" on Justia Law

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Lynch pled guilty to two counts of first-degree premeditated murder, one count of armed burglary of a dwelling, and one count of kidnapping, all stemming from the 1999 deaths of Morgan and her 13-year-old daughter. Lynch’s counsel recommended that he waive a penalty phase jury because a jury would be more emotional and unsympathetic to mitigation presented for the murder of a child than a seasoned trial judge. Lynch waived his right to a penalty phase jury. The court sentenced Lynch to death. The Supreme Court of Florida affirmed. In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Lynch’s petition for certiorari. The Supreme Court of Florida affirmed the denial of Lynch’s initial motion for postconviction relief and denied his petition for habeas corpus. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the denial of Lynch’s petition for federal habeas relief and, in 2016, the Supreme Court denied Lynch’s petition for certiorari to the Eleventh Circuit. Lynch filed a successive motion for postconviction relief, citing Hurst v. State. The Supreme Court of Florida affirmed the denial of relief. Lynch is not entitled to Hurst relief in light of his valid waiver of a penalty phase jury. Lynch argued, that the test for prejudice under the Strickland standard for ineffective assistance has changed post-Hurst. The court stated that trial counsel is not required to anticipate changes in the law in order to provide effective legal representation. View "Lynch v. Florida" on Justia Law

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Andres was convicted of first-degree murder, armed burglary with assault or battery, first-degree arson, and armed robbery for crimes that resulted in the death of the occupant of a Miami apartment where Andres was performing renovation work. After the penalty phase, the jury recommended a sentence of death by a vote of nine to three. The court imposed a sentence of death. On direct appeal, the Supreme Court of Florida affirmed Andres’ conviction for first-degree murder but vacated his death sentence. The trial court did not abuse its discretion by failing to conduct a full Richardson hearing after determining that a witness’s trial testimony was merely a clarification of his prior deposition testimony. The court also rejected claims concerning evidentiary rulings and alleged improper burden shifting. The court remanded for a new penalty phase. Andres’ sentence was imposed under the capital sentencing scheme found to violate the Sixth Amendment in the Supreme Court’s holding, Hurst v. Florida, The Sixth Amendment requires a jury, not a judge, to find each fact necessary to impose a death sentence. A jury’s mere recommendation is not enough. The court imposed Andres’ death sentence following the jury’s nonunanimous recommendation of death. It is not clear why the dissenting jurors voted for a life sentence, so the error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "Andres v. Florida" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the postconviction court granting in part and denying in part Appellant’s motion to vacate his conviction of first-degree murder and his sentence of death, holding that the postconviction court did not err in denying Appellant's claim that counsel was ineffective for failing to move to an improper comment made during closing argument and failing to move for a mistrial. After the Supreme Court affirmed Appellant’s conviction and death sentence, Appellant filed his initial motion for postconviction relief. The postconviction court found that Appellant was entitled to a new penalty phase based on Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016) . The postconviction court then held an evidentiary hearing on Appellant’s claims premised upon allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel and denied the claims. Appellant appealed the denial of his claim that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to an improper comment made during the State’s closing argument and failing to move for a mistrial. The Supreme Court held that the postconviction court did not err in denying this claim. View "Brown v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the postconviction court’s summary denial of Appellant’s claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, holding that the postconviction court properly denied the claims. Appellant was sentenced to death for the murders of Byrd and Melanie Billings. Appellant filed an amended motion for postconviction relief pursuant to Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851, which included a claim for relief pursuant to Hurst v. Florida, 136 S. Ct. 616 (2016), and Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016). The postconviction court summarily denied relief on Appellant's ineffective assistance of counsel claims but granted a new penalty phase based on his Hurst claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the record positively refuted Appellant’s claim ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to renew his motion for change of venue; and (2) the postconviction court properly denied Appellant's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to challenge the indictment as legally insufficient. View "Gonzalez v. State" on Justia Law

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Defendant’s convictions for aggravated assault, attempted sexual battery, and burglary with an assault or battery, which arose during a single criminal episode, did not violate the prohibition against double jeopardy. The Fourth District Court of appeal held that because burglary with an assault or battery does not necessarily include an aggravated assault or attempted sexual battery, Defendant’s convictions did not violate the prohibition against double jeopardy. The Supreme Court approved the decision below and disapproved conflicting decisions to the extent that they conflicted with this opinion, holding that Defendant’s convictions were different offenses, prohibited by different statutes, and criminalized different conduct, and therefore, the convictions did not violate the prohibition against double jeopardy. View "Tambriz-Ramirez v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the postconviction court’s denial of Eric Kurt Patrick’s motion for postconviction relief filed under Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851 and granted Patrick’s petition for writ of habeas corpus, which raised a valid claim under Hurst v. Florida, 136 S. Ct. 616 (2016), and Hurst v. State (Hurst), 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016). In 2009, Patrick was convicted of kidnapping, robbery, and first-degree murder. Patrick’s jury recommended a death sentence by a vote of seven to five. The trial court followed the jury’s recommendation. The Supreme Court affirmed. Thereafter, Patrick filed his motion for postconviction relief and then amended his motion to add a Hurst v. Florida claim. The postconviction court denied the motion in its entirety. As to the Hurst v. Florida claim, the postconviction court noted that the Supreme Court had not yet determined whether the holding would have retroactive effect. Patrick appealed and filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, requesting relief under Hurst v. Florida and Hurst. The Supreme Court vacated Patrick’s death sentence and granted Patrick a new penalty phase under Hurst v. Florida and Hurst in accordance with his petition for writ of habeas corpus, holding that the Hurst error in Patrick’s sentencing was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "Patrick v. State" on Justia Law