The Latest Headlines From Florida’s Death Row

Lots of headlines coming out of Florida’s death row lately. Here’s a round-up of what I’ve seen over the past few weeks but haven’t posted about.

As State Hastens Executions, Doubt Cast on Guilt of Death Row Inmate: A collection of new evidence in a little-known double-murder case may exonerate a man on Florida’s death row. The development comes at a time when Florida is moving to accelerate the pace of executions.

Catholic Bishops Ask Scott to Commute Three Death Sentences:  The pace of executions may be picking up in Florida. Governor Rick Scott has signed five death warrants so far this year, including three in the last month. That prompted the state’s Catholic bishops to write Scott, urging him to commute the three men’s sentences.

“Prudence calls for us to be careful about how we are going to carry out these death sentences”, Florida Catholic Conference Director Michael McCarron said. “I think that anytime you begin to escalate this process, you run that risk, so it needs to be done very carefully.”

Michael Putney: Death Penalty Politics in Florida: Keeping convicted murderers on Florida’s death row for an average of 13 years is much too long. But if it is the price we must pay for justice, then pay we must. The governor needs to veto the Timely Justice Act.

Riverview Man Who Killed Seminole Couple Wins Death Row Reprieve: A Riverview man won a reprieve from death row when the Florida Supreme Court ruled he had received poor legal representation during his 1998 sentencing for killing a Seminole couple during a warehouse robbery.

The court’s decision means Michael J. Griffin will have to be resentenced for the execution-style murders of Thomas and Patricia McCallops on Oct. 6, 1995. He will be able to argue that several circumstances – including a childhood brain injury, cocaine addiction, his own history of depression and his family’s history of mental illness and substance abuse – affected him enough that he should be sentenced to life in prison instead of death.

Jacksonville Killer Avoids Death Sentence For 2009 Murder: DeShawn Leon Green has avoided Death Row for a second time. But prosecutors will have one more chance to execute him. Circuit Judge James Daniel sentenced Green, 28, to life without the possibility of parole for the murder of 24-year-old Robert Kearney. The jury that convicted Green recommended he get the death penalty by a 7-5 vote, but Daniel rejected that recommendation.

Delmer Smith is Sentenced to DeathNearly four years after brutally murdering Kathleen Briles inside her Terra Ceia home, Delmer Smith learned that he will die as punishment for the crime. Judge Peter Dubensky sentenced Smith to death by lethal injection after saying that his crime of murder was among the worst of the worst. It was a sentence Kathleen Briles’ family has been waiting nearly four years to hear.

Despite facing the rest of his life on death row, Smith spoke out for the first time, still maintaining his innocence.

U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Florida Death Penalty Challenge:  The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up a case that tested the constitutionality of part of Florida’s system for imposing the death penalty. The 1991 case, Evans v. Crews, stemmed from a customary practice in Florida of judges holding hearings and making factual findings on aggravating and mitigating factors to help determine whether to impose death sentences.

A 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision, known as Ring v. Arizona, held that juries, not judges, must determine the existence of aggravating factors in death-penalty cases. As a result, a U.S. District judge in 2011 found that Florida’s death-penalty sentencing process was unconstitutional. But that ruling was overturned by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, prompting an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Florida Justices Uphold Death Sentence For Theodore Rodgers:  Florida Supreme Court justices denied an appeal from attorneys for Theodore Rodgers Jr., who was sentenced to death in 2004 for fatally shooting Florence Teresa Henderson in front of three children at Henderson’s day care on Savoy Drive.

Fla. Supreme Court To Hear Xbox Murders Appeal:  Nearly nine years after the grisly discovery of six bodies in a central Florida home, an attorney for one of the convicted murderers argued Thursday that a mistrial should have been sought in the case and that his client had been wrongly portrayed as the ringleader.

Christopher Anderson, an appellate attorney for Death Row inmate Troy Victorino, told the Florida Supreme Court that another defendant in what became known as the “Xbox murders” refused to be cross-examined while testifying during the trial. Anderson contended that Victorino’s trial attorneys improperly failed to seek a mistrial when that refusal took place.

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