Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Florida Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court denied Petitioner's petition to invoke this Court's discretionary jurisdiction, holding that the Florida Constitution does not authorize the Supreme Court to review cases that "may present federal issues." Petitioner, an inmate, filed a motion for postconviction relief alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. The postconviction court denied the motion, ruling that Petitioner had failed to demonstrate prejudice. The court of appeals affirmed. Petitioner then filed a notice to invoke the Supreme Court's discretionary jurisdiction on the ground that the court of appeal's decision below "expressly and directly conflicts with the decision of another district court of appeal or the Florida Supreme Court." Petitioner's jurisdictional brief, however, did not identify a conflict case but instead stated that the case "may present federal issues." The Supreme Court denied relief, holding that because Petitioner's jurisdictional brief failed to identify a jurisdictional basis for the Court to consider his case, he was not entitled to review. View "Mallet v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying in part and dismissing in part Defendant's second successive motion for postconviction relief filed under Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on his claim. In his second successive postconviction motion Defendant asserted that newly discovered evidence required that his conviction be overturned, that the State committed Brady and Giglio violations, and that his death sentence was unconstitutional because he was innocent of the murder. The circuit court denied relief. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) all of Defendant's newly discovered evidence claims were either correctly rejected as untimely or based on inadmissible evidence; (2) each of Defendant's Giglio claims failed on the merits; (3) the lower court did not err in declining to take judicial notice of certain records; and (4) the circuit court did not err in summarily rejecting Defendant's claim that he is actually innocent. View "Dailey 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 quashed the decision of the Third District on the issue of whether a defendant is entitled to a de novo sentencing proceeding after an appellate court determines that the trial court's initial downward departure sentence was not supported by legally sufficient findings, holding that the proper remedy upon reversal of a sentence due to the invalidity of a downward departure is resentencing de novo. Defendant pled guilty to four offenses and was placed on probation. The trial court subsequently revoked Defendant's probation and imposed a downward departure from what otherwise would have been the lowest permissible sentence under the Criminal Punishment Code (CPC). The Third District concluded that the departure was invalid and remanded for "resentencing within the sentencing guidelines." The Supreme Court quashed the Third District's decision, holding that on remand for resentencing due to the substantive invalidity of a downward departure, the trial court is permitted to impose a downward departure as long as the departure comports with the principles and criteria of the CPC. View "Shine v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that through persistent filing of nonmeritorious requests for relief, Mark Jackson had abused the judicial process and, accordingly, directed the Clerk of Court to reject any future pleadings, documents, or other requests for relief submitted by Jackson unless such filings were signed by a member in good standing of The Florida Bar. Jackson - a pro se litigant - filed a petition to invoke the Supreme Court's discretionary jurisdiction. The Court denied Jackson's petition but expressly reserved jurisdiction to pursue possible sanctions against him. While the case was pending, Jackson filed several motions that were frivolous, without merit, or sought relief previously denied. The Supreme Court concluded that a sanction was necessary because, if not restrained, Jackson would continue to burden the Court with frivolous and meritless filings. View "Jackson v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court ordered that the Clerk of Court reject any future pleadings, petitions, motions, documents, or other filings submitted by Larry R. Wetzel that were related to his criminal case, holding that that Wetzel has abused the judicial process and burdened the Court's limited judicial resources. Wetzel was charged with five counts of filing a false statement against real or personal property. Wetzel filed five pro se petitions with the Supreme Court seeking relief related to those criminal charges, each of which was accompanied by a plethora of rambling documents. Two of the petitions were voluntarily dismissed by Wetzel but the remainder were dismissed as unauthorized. Based on Wetzel's vexatious filing history, the Supreme Court issued an order directing him to show cause why he should not be prohibited from filing any further pro se documents in the Court related to his criminal case. Upon consideration of Wetzel's response, the Supreme Court concluded that he failed to show cause why sanctions should not be imposed. View "Wetzel 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 sanctioned Larry Barber by directing the Clerk of Court to reject any future pleadings or other requests for relief submitted by Barber that were related to a certain criminal case unless such filings were signed by a member in good standing of The Florida Bar, holding that Barber failed to show cause why he should not be barred. Barber pro se filed fifteen petitions or notices with the Supreme Court since February 13, 1998. On December 19, 2018, the Supreme Court dismissed Barber's petition for a writ of prohibition, expressly retained jurisdiction, and ordered Barber to show cause why he should not be barred from filing further pro se requests for relief in the Court related to his criminal case. The Court then found that Barber failed to show cause why he should not be barred because, through his extensive history of filing pro se petitions and requests for relief that were meritless or otherwise inappropriate for review, Barber abused this Court's limited judicial resources. View "Barber v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the postconviction court denying Appellant’s successive motion to vacate a judgment of conviction of first-degree murder under Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851, holding that Appellant failed to show error in the denial of his successive postconviction motion. In his postconviction motion, Appellant alleged violations of Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150 (1972), and Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), as well as a claim of newly discovered evidence. The Supreme Court held (1) Appellant’s Giglio claim and Brady claim were both without merit; and (2) Appellant’s newly discovered evidence claim was both procedurally barred and without merit. View "Merck v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the postconviction court’s summary denial of Appellant’s successive motion requesting postconviction relief under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963) and Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150 (1972), filed under Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851, holding that Appellant’s claims were procedurally barred. Specifically, the Court held (1) Appellant’s claims were procedurally barred because the evidence at issue was not newly discovered because the record established that the information in Appellant’s claims could have been discovered at an earlier date through the exercise of due diligence; and (2) even if Appellant’s claims were not procedurally barred, his claims were without merit. View "Thomas v. State" on Justia Law