Florida Court Explains Grounds for Finding a Punishment is Cruel

When sentencing a defendant following a conviction, the Florida courts will look at mitigating and aggravating factors to determine what constitutes an appropriate penalty. Typically, such analysis and sentencing occur shortly after a conviction. Merely because a significant amount of time has passed between a conviction and sentencing, however, does not mean that the sentence is patently cruel and unusual, as demonstrated in a recent Florida case in which the defendant appealed his sentence for murder and other crimes, which was delivered thirty years after his conviction. If you are accused of a violent crime, it is crucial to retain a Tampa violent crime defense attorney to assist you in fighting to protect your liberties.

History of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant went to a substance abuse rehabilitation facility, where he provided the staff with a motel room number. The victim, a nurse the defendant knew, was subsequently found dead in the motel room. The defendant was charged and convicted of first-degree murder. The trial court imposed the death penalty in accordance with the jury’s recommendation. The trial court’s decision was affirmed in 1996.

It is reported that the defendant was granted two additional sentencing proceedings. In the first new sentencing proceeding, in 2005, it was found that he received ineffective assistance of counsel, but the death sentence was affirmed. In the second sentencing proceeding, the defendant waived the right to a penalty-phase jury and the right to present mitigating evidence. The trial court imposed a death sentence after considering the aggravating factors and mitigating circumstances, and he appealed.

Grounds for Finding a Punishment is Cruel and Unusual

The defendant raised two issues on appeal. First, he argues that the prolonged delay of approximately 30 years between the offense and the current sentencing constituted cruel and unusual punishment. The court rejected this argument, however, noting that it had consistently rejected similar claims, including in cases with longer death row stays.

Secondly, the defendant claimed that the trial court erred by not explicitly finding beyond a reasonable doubt that the mitigating factors were sufficient to warrant the death penalty and that the aggravating factors far outweighed the mitigating factors. The court rejected this argument, though, noting that the statute does not impose such a requirement. Further, as the court explained, recent case law supported its position that the sufficiency and weight of the aggravating factors were not subject to the reasonable doubt standard. Thus, the court affirmed the defendant’s sentence.

Meet with a Capable Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney Today

Violent crimes typically carry greater penalties than other offenses, but any sentence issued must be constitutional, otherwise, it should be vacated.  If you are accused of committing a violent crime, it is prudent to meet with an attorney to discuss what defenses you may be able to set forth. The capable Tampa criminal defense lawyers of Hanlon Law are adept at handling challenging cases, and if you hire us, we will advocate aggressively on your behalf. You can contact Hanlon Law by using the form online or by calling us at 813-228-7095 to set up a meeting.