Monday, November 19, 2012

Defendant Wins Reversal

The Florida Supreme Court issued an important ruling last week, reversing a conviction for first-degree murder.  Below is the summary.

Jackson v. State

Opinion Date: November 15, 2012
Judge: Per Curiam
Areas of Law: Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law
Appellant appealed from a judgment of conviction of first-degree murder and a sentence of death for the killing of Andrea Boyer, as well as a conviction for sexual battery by use of actual physical force likely to cause serious personal injury. The Supreme Court reversed the convictions, vacated the sentence of death, and remanded for a new trial, holding that reversible error occurred in the guilt phase of the trial, when the State introduced a lengthy videotape of Appellant's custodial interrogation in which the investigating officers repeatedly expressed their personal opinions about Appellant's guilt and the victim's character and family life. 
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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Petraeus Legal Issues

Here is an excerpt from an article about the accessibility of e-mails as it relates to the scandal involving General Petraeus:
Under the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, federal authorities need only a subpoena approved by a federal prosecutor — not a judge — to obtain electronic messages that are six months old or older. To get more recent communications, a warrant from a judge is required. This is a higher standard that requires proof of probable cause that a crime is being committed.
Public interest groups are pressing Congress for the law to be updated because it was written a quarter-century ago, when most emails were deleted after a few months because the cost of storing them indefinitely was prohibitive. Now, "cloud computing" services provide huge amounts of inexpensive storage capacity.
This case may provide the spark necessary to update this antiquated law that threatens individual privacy rights.  Read the entire story here

Florida Supreme Court Action

Lukehart v. State



Judge: Per Curiam
Areas of Law: Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law
Opinion Date: November 8, 2012 
Defendant was tried and convicted for the murder of a five-month-old. Defendant was sentenced to death. The Supreme Court affirmed his convictions and sentence of death but remanded for resentencing on the aggravated child abuse conviction. Defendant subsequently filed a motion to vacate judgment and sentence. The lower court denied Defendant's claims. Defendant then appealed, asserting that his counsel was ineffective. The Supreme Court denied the appeal. Thereafter, Defendant filed a successive motion to vacate judgment and sentence with special request for leave to amend, asserting that his counsel was ineffective. The circuit court summarily denied the motion and subsequent rehearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) because Defendant's motion was untimely, the postconviction court properly summarily denied the motion; and (2) because Defendant did not address the merits of his claim on appeal, and because the postconviction court did not rule on the merits, the Court would not reach the merits of his claim.
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Johnson v. State



Judge: Per Curiam
Areas of Law: Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law
Opinion Date: November 8, 2012 
Defendant was tried, convicted, and sentenced for several crimes against four separate victims. Two of the victims - Iris White and Jackie McCahon - were murdered, while two were not. This appeal stemmed from Defendant's first-degree murder conviction and accompanying death sentence for the killing of Jackie McCahon. Defendant raised thirteen claim on direct appeal. The Supreme Court denied each of Defendant's claims, determined that the death penalty was proportional to Defendant's crime, and affirmed Defendant's convictions and sentences. Defendant subsequently filed a motion for postconviction relief, raising sixteen claims. The postconviction court ultimately denied all of Defendant's claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant was not entitled to postconviction relief from his conviction and sentence for the first-degree murder of McCahon.
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