Florida Criminal Appeals Attorney Law

Appellate Law, Criminal Defense and Appeals and Post Conviction Relief in Florida Courts, Federal District Courts and the 11th Circuit

Tag: Death Penalty

Van Poyck v. State, SC 73662: Florida Supreme Court Order Requiring Prior Counsel to Remain As Counsel And Other Developments

Florida’s criminal defense and criminal appeals attorneys who are interested in the developments of the Van Poyck death penalty case may want to know that I found the Supreme Court order requiring Van Poyck’s prior counsel to remain on the case.  If you want to read it, click here.  In response to the Order, two of Van Poyck’s previous attorneys have just filed a Motion to Vacate and Alternative Motion for Rehearing of the Supreme Court order.

If you have time and are interested in all the procedural drama, feel free to view the other orders and motions in the case by clicking here.

After Winning a New Trial, Goodman Loses a Lawyer, and Death Row Inmate William Van Poyck Wins A Team of Lawyers

Well, after winning a new trial (while the case is on appeal, no less) John Goodman lost a key member of his criminal defense team, Robert Black.  For the articles in the Palm Beach Post and Sun Sentinel, click here and here.  Maybe this means that Goodman and the State have reached a plea agreement?

Meanwhile, the Palm Beach Post also reports that there’s quite a bit of legal havoc in the William Van Poyck death penalty case.  Although I have not yet been able to locate the order issued by the Florida Supreme Court, the Court has apparently pulled a surprise move.  Even as Van Poyck’s June execution date approaches, the Court appears to have appointed a team of lawyers from Palm Beach County to represent Van Poyck.  For the article in the Palm Beach Post, click here.

To me, the Van Poyck case highlights just a fraction of what is wrong with Florida’s death penalty.  If the case is still important enough for the court to appoint new lawyers, even at this late stage, why should the Governor be signing the warrant for Van Poyck’s execution?  And why is it that after years of being unable to reach any sort of agreement with regard to amending the death penalty statute so as to render it constitutional, (why bother with that?), the Florida legislature is able to enact legislation that limits the appeals process, thereby actually speeding up the death penalty executions?

Is Speeding Up Appeals Process for Florida’s Death Row Inmates A Good Thing? Senator Joe Negron Thinks So

Well, the week is practically over and I’ve not had as much time for reading opinions as I like, but I came across an interesting article from the Palm Beach Post that I thought deserved mentioning.  According to the report, Florida Senator Joe Negron is sponsoring the “Timely Justice Act of 2013″ in an effort to speed up the appeals process for death-row inmates.   According to Negron, the bill is “designed to streamline litigation and cut out duplicate or baseless appeals filed by prisoners after the state Supreme Court has upheld a murder conviction and death sentence.”

Any Florida criminal attorney (whether you handle trials or appeals) knows that death row appeals can take years to conclude.  And everyone who’s familiar with the system also knows there will always be baseless appeals filed by certain individuals.  But in my view, to try to legislate the time for the appeals process seems misdirected.  After all, we read stories every day about inmates who are exonerated after spending years on death row.  Why cut off their time for appealing their conviction with another arbitrary deadline?  Instead, the legislature should focus on other things of greater constitutional concern–for example, amending the death penalty statute to require a unanimous recommendation by the jury before the death penalty could be imposed.  As noted in the Palm Beach Post report, Florida is the ONLY state that does not require a unanimous jury recommendation.  Or perhaps the legislature could spend their time on something even more important, like repealing the death penalty altogether.  Isn’t it time Florida joined the other civilized States in the U.S.?

You can view the text of the bill, and other information about the bill (SB 1750), here.

United States v. Hall, No. 11-14698: Eleventh Circuit Reverses 4-Level Enhancment For Fraudulent Use of Identifying Information to Obtain Credit Cards

I had to do a double-take when I read the opening paragraph of United States v. Erica Hall, No. 11-14698:

Hall pled guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349 (Count 1); conspiracy to commit identity theft and access device fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371 (Count 2); wrongfully obtaining and transferring individually identifiable health information for personal gain, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1320d-6(a)(2) (Count 3).  When imposing Hall’s sentence, the district court applied a four-level enhancement under U.S.S.G. § 2B1.1(b)(2)(B) because it found that the offense involved more than 50 but less than 250 victims.  In objecting to the enhancement, Hall argued that the mere transfer or sale of identifying information unlawfully or without authority does not equate to the actual use of identifying information for a fraudulent purpose.  Therefore, because the conspirators actually used only identifying information for 12 out of 141 individuals to obtain fraudulent credit cards, Hall argued that the two-level enhancement under U.S.S.G. § 2B1.1(b)(2)(A) was more appropriate because it applies to more than 10, but less than 50, victims.  The district court rejected Hall’s argument, but we do not.  Accordingly, we vacate Hall’s sentence and remand for resentencing.

Wow.  Those are words not often found in an Eleventh Circuit opinion.  No doubt that Hall’s appellate counsel and other criminal defense lawyers practicing in the Southern District of Florida will be pleased.

In another case, Norman Mearle Grim, Jr.  v. Fla. Sec’y, Dept. of Corrs., No. 11-11890, the Eleventh Circuit reverted to its usual self and denied a death-row inmate’s habeas petition.  In the opinion, the Court again rejected a constitutional claim based on Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584 (2002).  In support, the Court pointed to a recently issued decision, Evans v. Sec’y, Fla. Dep’t of Corrs., 699 F.3d 1249, 1264 (11th Cir. 2012), where the Court held that Florida’s death penalty statute is constitutional.  For my previous post on the Evans case, click here.

Eleventh Circuit Issues En Banc Opinion in Wydell Evans v. Sec’y, Dept. of Corrections, No. 10-14920

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has recently released an en banc decision in the habeas appeal of Wydell Evans v. Sec’y, Dept. of Corrections, No. 10-14920.  As far as Eleventh Circuit opinions go, it’s rather long at 72 pages, but considering that it’s an en banc opinion, the 72 pages seems unexpectedly short.  As one familiar with the Eleventh Circuit might expect, the majority opinion affirmed the denial of Evans’ petition for habeas corpus relief.  In so doing, the Court focused its analysis on the prejudice prong of Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), and held that even though Evans’ trial counsel performed only a minimal investigation into mitigating evidence for the penalty phase of the trial, and presented no mitigating evidence to the jury, Evans was not prejudiced because the evidence of mitigation which counsel could have presented was more harmful than helpful.  See Evans v. Sec’y, Dept. of Corrections, Slip op., pgs. 3-37.

Whether you handle criminal defense, habeas petitions, death penalty work, or federal appeals, this opinion might be worth your time to review.  Not only does Judge Jordan’s concurrence contain a good discussion of the standards of review applicable to habeas proceedings, but Judges Wilson and Martin author great dissents.  Judge Wilson’s dissent focuses on the Court’s decision to render the en banc decision at all.  If you handle federal appeals before the Eleventh Circuit, Judge Wilson’s dissent might be valuable the next time you have to draft an opposition to a motion for en banc consideration.  See Evans, Slip op. pgs. 46-49.  Judge Martin’s dissent contains a thought-provoking discussion of the role of defense counsel in death penalty cases.  In short, Judge Martin agrees with the majority that the mitigating evidence that counsel could have presented to the jury would have portrayed Evans in a bad light.  However, Judge Martin notes that the jury was already familiar with Evans’ character flaws, anyway.  And, most importantly, Judge Martin observes: isn’t it the job of death penalty counsel to investigate and present whatever mitigating evidence can be found?  See Evans, Slip op., pgs. 50-72.


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