Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Florida Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the trial court denying Defendant relief from his conviction and denied Defendant's habeas conviction, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief. Defendant was found guilty of first-degree felony murder and robbery with a firearm or other deadly weapon. Defendant later moved for postconviction relief. The trial court vacated Defendant's death sentence and ordered a new penalty phase pursuant to Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016). Defendant appealed the denial of his guilt phase claims and petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of habeas corpus. In the appeal from the postconviction motion, the Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on his allegations of error. The Court then denied habeas relief, holding that appellate counsel was not ineffective on direct appeal. View "Jordan v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court declined to answer a question certified by the Fourth District Court of Appeal regarding whether, under the Fourth Amendment, a warrantless blood draw of an unconscious person incapable of giving consent may be pursuant to Fla. Stat. 316.1932(1)(c) so that the unconscious person can be said to have "consented" to the blood draw, holding that this case fell squarely within the rule announced in Mitchell v. Wisconsin, 139 S. Ct. 2525 (2019). The Wisconsin Supreme Court analyzed the Fourth Amendment issue using the "consent" framework of the statute. During the pendency of this appeal the United States Supreme Court considered a materially indistinguishable issue relating to a similar Wisconsin statute and vacated the Wisconsin Supreme Court's decision. The Supreme Court declined to address the certified question as framed, applied Mitchell, vacated the Fourth District's decision, and remanded, holding that because this case fell within the rule announced in Mitchell, the warrantless blood draw was legal. View "McGraw v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying John Mack Sketo Calhoun's motion to vacate his conviction of first-degree murder filed under Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851 and denied Calhoun's petition for a writ of habeas corpus, holding that Calhoun was not entitled to relief. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) as to Calhoun's postconviction appeal, the circuit court properly denied relief as to Calhoun's newly discovered evidence claim, trial counsel was not ineffective during the guilt phase, and none of Calhoun's remaining claims warranted relief; and (2) as to Calhoun's habeas petition, Calhoun failed to demonstrate that appellate counsel was ineffective on direct appeal. View "Calhoun v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's summary denial of Appellant's second successive motion for postconviction relief, holding that the petition was both untimely and procedurally barred. Appellant was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. Several years later, Appellant filed his second successive motion for postconviction relief under Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851, arguing that, in Buck v. Davis, 137 S. Ct. 759 (2017), the United States Supreme Court established a new fundamental constitutional right that the injection of racial bias and prejudice into a criminal trial constitutes per se ineffective assistance of counsel. Further, Appellant argued that this right applies to convictions and sentences, like his, that became final before Buck. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) Appellant's motion was untimely because Buck did not establish a new right; and (2) because this Court previously addressed the arguments at issue and held that they did not warrant relief Appellant's motion was procedurally barred. View "Bell v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction and death sentence for first-degree murder, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on any of his allegations of error. Specifically, the Court held (1) the jury instructions during the penalty phase were sufficient; (2) the trial court did not err in admitting Defendant's letters to a predecessor judge and the elected state attorney; (3) the trial court's findings of the CCP aggravator were supported by competent, substantial evidence; (4) there was no error in the court's analysis of the prior violent felony aggravator; (5) the sentencing order was sufficient; (6) the evidence was sufficient to sustain the murder conviction; and (7) the death sentence was proportionate. View "Rogers v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the postconviction court's order denying Appellant's third successive motion for postconviction relief filed under Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851, holding that the postconviction court did not err in denying relief. Appellant pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, kidnapping, and sexual battery and was sentenced to death. Appellant filed his current challenge to his death sentence - his third successive under Rule 3.851 - after the governor signed his death warrant. The postconviction court denied his motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the postconviction court did not err in (1) summarily denying Appellant's newly discovered evidence claim; (2) denying Appellant's challenges to Florida's lethal injection protocol; (3) summarily denying Appellant's claim that adding his execution to the more than thirty years he has spent on death row constitutes cruel and unusual punishment; and (4) denying the remainder of Appellant's claims. View "Long v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions of first-degree murder and six sentences of death, holding that no reversible error occurred in the proceedings below and that each of the death sentences was appropriate. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it declined Defendant’s request for self-representation; (2) there was no improper doubling of aggravators; (3) Defendant’s challenge to the constitutionality of the death penalty was procedurally barred; (4) Defendant’s guilty pleas were knowing, intelligent, and voluntary; and (5) each of Defendant’s death sentences was proportionate. View "Damas v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the postconviction court denying Appellant’s motion filed pursuant to Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851, holding that Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016), did not apply retroactively to Appellant’s sentence of death. Appellant was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. The jury recommended death by a vote of seven to five. Appellant’s death sentence became final in 1993. In his postconviction motion, Appellant sought relief pursuant to Hurst v. Florida, 136 S. Ct. 616 (2016), and Hurst. The Supreme Court affirmed the postconviction court’s order denying relief, holding that Appellant was not entitled to relief under Hurst. View "Thompson v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying Appellant’s motion for postconviction relief filed under Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851, holding, among other things, that Appellant’s attorney was not ineffective for failing to investigate and present certain mitigation evidence. Appellant was convicted of kidnapping and first-degree murder and sentence of death. In her motion for postconviction relief Appellant raised fourteen initial claims and then amended her motion to add a Hurst claim. The trial court denied the motion in its entirety. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that trial counsel’s performance was not deficient, the State did not commit a Giglio violation, and Appellant was not entitled to a new penalty phase under Hurst v. Florida, 136 S. Ct. 616 (2016) and Hurst v. State, 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016). View "Allen v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme court affirmed the circuit court’s order granting in part and denying in part Appellant’s motion for DNA testing under Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.853, holding that none of Appellant’s claims on appeal had merit. After a retrial, Appellant was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. The Supreme Court affirmed on direct appeal. Appellant later filed his motion for DNA testing of evidence pursuant to Rule 3.853. After an evidentiary hearing, the circuit court granted the motion in part and denied it in part. Appellant appealed the circuit court’s partial denial of his Rule 3.853 motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not err in adopting the State’s reasoning and conclusions as to Appellant’s motion in its order; and (2) the partial denial of Appellant’s motion did not violate his Fifth, Eighth, or Fourteenth Amendment rights. View "Gosciminski v. State" on Justia Law