We’ve been watching Patrick C. Hannon’s cases at the Florida Supreme Court. The State will execute Hannon on Wednesday, November 8 at 6 p.m. unless the courts, or Governor Rick Scott, intervene. Recall that Hannon had a unanimous jury recommend the death sentence for two counts of first-degree murder.
Case 1: Hurst challenge
In Case 1, Hannon appealed the denial of a successive postconviction motion before Gov. Scott signed his death warrant. That prompted the Florida Supreme Court to order Hannon to show cause why they shouldn’t affirm the lower court based on Hitchcock v. State.
Hitchcock had a pre-Ring, non-unanimous jury, but, according to a separate opinion by Justice Lewis, never challenged Florida’s capital sentencing procedures before Ring (unlike others). Hitchcock’s petition for certiorari in SCOTUS is still pending; the State’s response isn’t due till October 30. We’ll have more on Hitchcock in the coming weeks.
The court denied the stay, and Hannon has since filed a renewed motion for stay of execution. Hannon argues that he should be resentenced under Hurst. This will be an uphill climb because not only was his sentence imposed before Ring v. Arizona, but he had a unanimous jury recommend death. Mark James Asay and Cary Lambrix had pre-Ring, non-unanimous juries, but couldn’t stop their lethal injections in August and early October.
Case 2: Non-Hurst Arguments
In Case 2, Hannon wants access to sealed records; challenges the lethal injection cocktail (“poses a substantial risk of unnecessary pain”); challenges the governor’s death warrant authority as “arbitrary and standardless”; and argues that his sentence was disproportionate compared to his other co-defendants involved in the murders, who received lesser sentences. You can read his initial brief here, the State’s answer brief here, and his reply here.
Yesterday, Hannon filed a motion to relinquish jurisdiction to the circuit court so that the lower court could perform an in camera inspection of sealed records to determine whether they could be turned over to Hannon for the case or not [in camera is a fancy way to describe a judge’s review of records behind closed doors before making a decision to allow the records to be released or not; and no, the judge doesn’t look at the records through a camera lens (typically)].
Hannon wants records related the State’s lethal injection protocol (from Initial Brief, p.17):
Mr. Hannon specifically sought records from the Department of Corrections (DOC) and Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) in an effort to obtain information including, but not limited to, the change of drugs, how the drugs are obtained, and efforts to research and or procure safer, attainable alternative drugs, in addition to requesting information regarding the “Public records, including the required logs, notes, memoranda, letters, electronic mail, and facsimiles, relating to the executions by lethal injection of Carey Michael Lambrix, Mark James Asay, Oscar Ray Bolin, Jerry Correll, Johnny Kormondy, Chadwick Banks, Eddie Davis and John Henry.” Finally, Mr. Hannon sought records “that would indicate personnel changes or any formal or informal changes to the unwritten ‘procedures’ or customary practices that were testified to by DOC personnel during the litigation in Lightbourne in 2007” (PC-R4. 114-122; 123-130). Both DOC and FDLE raised blanket objections, as is their customary practice, that the detailed requests were irrelevant, overly broad, and unduly burdensome and not related to a colorable claim.
The circuit court denied the request, and now he wants the Florida Supreme Court to overrule the circuit judge and grant access to those records. In the records that the State did provide to Hannon, “25 pages were under seal.” So in addition to the argument in his brief, Hannon’s motion to relinquish jurisdiction asks that the circuit court look at those 25 pages and determine whether or not they should’ve been “under seal.”
Expect the State to respond to yesterday’s motion soon.
We’ll be watching for updates in both cases as November 8 approaches. Check Twitter (@fla_ct_rev) for live updates. Stay tuned.