And just like that, the Ides of March came and went before our first March post. Time, especially blog time, is scarce with a newborn’s feeding and sleeping schedule interacting with the morning routine. We hope you understand.
Unanimous Florida Supreme Court remands for life sentence
Something you don’t see everyday: the full court voted to vacate the death sentence of Kentrell F. Johnson and remand for an imposition of life without parole. Johnson was a co-defendant of Quentin Truehill, whom we’ve discussed before, and agreed to show investigators where the body of Vincent Binder was located in exchange for the State not pursuing the death penalty. Well, that deal was with one State Attorney’s Office, the Second Circuit in Tallahassee, and not the office that ended up prosecuting him–the Seventh Circuit in St. Johns County. And the trial court found that one State Attorney’s Office couldn’t bind another, even though Johnson led investigators to the body, as agreed.
The Florida Supreme Court reversed using “general contract principles,” finding that none of the agreement’s terms were contingent upon the body being found in one county or another, and that the State was bound by the agreement because Johnson “performed his end of the bargain.”
This is the first post-Hurst case where the full court remanded to impose a life sentence.
Another unanimous Hurst/waiver case
Since Hurst there is one Hurst issue that the Florida Supreme Court has been unanimous on since the beginning: defendants that waived a penalty phase jury are not entitled to new sentencing under Hurst. And yesterday was no exception. The court affirmed Jeffrey Glenn Hutchinson’s death sentences because he waived his right to present evidence to a penalty-phase jury.
This blog has discussed the waiver cases before, and has mused whether pre-Hurst defendants would’ve waived a penalty phase jury had they known that the State needed to convince all 12 jurors to vote for the death penalty, while one vote for a life sentence would’ve been enough to stay off death row.
So far, no justice at the state or U.S. level has dissented in a waiver case.
Dissent in the Districts!
On Wednesday, Judge Gross registered dissent in four cases at the Fourth DCA. Three involved interpretation of the PIP Statute, flow charts and all (here, here, and here), while the other involved a violation of probation and the defendant’s classification as a “danger to the community.” The defendant’s crime that put him on probation was burglary, but his violation was marijuana-related. At the “danger hearing,” the best the state could come up with to support classification as a danger to the community was (according to Judge Gross’s reading of the record) dishonesty and marijuana use. This didn’t impress Judge Gross:
Under section 948.06(8), a “danger to the community” is not a freewheeling concept unhinged from the statute. Rock and roll music was once considered dangerous to the morals of teenagers, but that type of soft danger is outside the purview of the statute.
Needless to say, Judge Gross would have sent the case back for resentencing.
Tweeting, if not blogging
We’ve been more active on Twitter, and will retweet the links to the Second and Fifth DCA opinion releases. Happy Friday!