Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Florida death sentence overturned as unconstitutional

Judge José Martinez granted a writ of habeas corpus today on the ground that Florida’s death penalty process did not afford due process because a judge, not a jury, decided that Paul H. Evans must die. Rather, a jury had recommended that Evans die by a vote of 9 to 3 without specifying what aggravating factor or factors led to that conclusion. There was no indication that a majority of jurors agreed on the factors that convinced them to recommend the execution.

The Florida Supreme Court had affirmed Evans’ death sentence. Key to its decision was that court’s finding that Evans’ sentence became final in February 2002—before the U.S. Supreme Court decided the seminal capital case Ring v. Arizona. Judge Martinez disagreed:
This is incorrect. Mr. Evans’ death sentence became final (for retroactivity purposes) in October of 2002, when the Supreme Court denied certiorari in Evans v. Florida, 537 U.S. 951 (2002). Ring was decided in June of 2002 which makes it applicable to Mr. Evans’s petitions ... .
Applying Ring, Judge Martinez held that the Florida scheme fell short of due process:
There are no specific findings of fact made by the jury. Indeed, the reviewing courts never know what aggravating or mitigating factors the jury found. It is conceivable that some of the jurors did not find the existence of an aggravating circumstance, or that each juror found a different aggravating circumstance, or perhaps all jurors found the existence of an aggravating circumstance but some thought that the mitigating circumstances outweighed them. ... After the jury's recommendation, there is a separate sentencing hearing conducted before the judge only. ... The defendant has no way of knowing whether or not the jury found the same aggravating factors as the judge. Indeed, the judge, unaware of the aggravating factor or factors found by the jury, may find an aggravating circumstance that was not found by the jury while failing to find the aggravating circumstance that was found by the jury. ... This cannot be reconciled with Ring.
The case is Evans v. McNeil, 08-14402-CIV-JEM. The petitioner was represented by Capital Collateral Regional Counsel.


Jim Dugan said...

Will this affect the Casey Anthony trial should she convicted by the jury?

Jim Dugan said...

Will this possibly affect the Casey Anthony trial should Casey, for some unexplained lack of proof, be found guilty by the jury?

By the way, if she's the biggest liar on the earth as commented by some ridiculous truth twister announcer that's a far leap from convicting her of being a murderer!

Anonymous said...

Why would it?