SCOTUS: Grants cert on lethal injection protocol

Question 1: Is it constitutionally permissible for a state to carry out an execution using a three-drug protocol where (a) there is a well-established scientific consensus that the first drug has no pain relieving properties and cannot reliably produce deep, comalike unconsciousness, and (b) it is undisputed that there is a substantial, constitutionally unacceptable risk of pain and suffering from the administration of the second and third drugs when a prisoner is conscious.

Question 2: Does the Baze-plurality stay standard apply when states are not using a protocol substantially similar to the one that this Court considered in Baze?

Question 3: Must a prisoner establish the availability of an alternative drug formula even if the state’s lethal-injection protocol, as properly administered, will violate the Eighth Amendment?

Glossip v. Gross, 2015 WL 127627 (10th Cir. Jan. 12, 2015) (cert granted 1/23/2015 case 14-7955)

Opinion Below:

FlaSC: Must appt special counsel in DP cases where D waives mitigation

Affirming the conviction and death sentence of Bill Paul Marquardt, the Florida Supreme Court held:

MITIGATION:  “We also reaffirm our commitment to the principles and procedures articulated in Muhammad v. State, 782 So. 2d 343 (Fla. 2001), that require a trial court to consider mitigation evidence even when the defendant waives mitigation. However, recognizing the tension that may exist when a trial court appoints standby counsel to present mitigation evidence in these circumstances, as was done in this case, we prospectively modify the Muhammad procedures to the limited extent that trial courts should utilize an independent, special counsel—rather than standby counsel—to represent the public interest in bringing forth all available mitigation for the benefit of the jury, the trial court, and this Court.”
MOTION TO SUPPRESS – COLLATERAL ESTOPPEL:  Where a Wisconsin court denied suppression of the same evidence, a Florida trial court does not err in denying a motion to suppress without an evidentiary hearing under the doctrine of collateral estoppel because Wisconsin generally provides the same constitutional search/seizure guarantees as Florida.

SCOTUS: Substitution of Counsel for Missing Federal Habeas Filing Deadline

After counsel for a death row inmate missed the filing deadline for his federal habeas corpus petition, the prisoner requested substitution of counsel based on conflict of interest as his existing counsel could not reasonably be expected to argue that the prisoner was entitled to equitable tolling of the statute of limitations.  The Supreme Court held that these sort of conflicts permit substitution of counsel but the prisoner must still prove, through new counsel, that he is entitled to equitable tolling.

Christeson v. Roper, 14-6873 (Jan. 20, 2015)
Per curiam, with dissent from Alito and Thomas
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CA11: Reverses grant of writ in death penalty case

In this federal habeas corpus appeal of a Florida state death row inmate, the district court granted a writ of habeas corpus on the grounds that defense counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel by advising the defendant to waive his right to a jury during the penalty phase.  Applying the prejudice standard of Hill rather than Strickland, the Eleventh Circuit reversed and held that “[n]either Lynch’s brief nor the district court’s opinion offers any reason why a jury would be more likely than a judge to be persuaded by such evidence, let alone a reason with which ‘fairminded jurists’ could disagree.”

Lynch v. Fla. Dep’t of Corrections, 12-15188 (11th Cir. Jan. 8, 2015)

MDFL Judge Honeywell

FlaSC: Prison Affidavits as Newly Discovered Evidence

After a victim testified that the defendant was in the other room with her husband when he was murdered, prison affidavits, each alleging that a codefendant actually shot the victim rather than the defendant, do not meet the test for newly discovered evidence if they constitute hearsay and are not of such nature that they would probably yield a life sentence rather than a death sentence.

Kormondy v. State, SC14-2428 (Fla. Jan. 5, 2015)

CA11: Overturns writ of habeas corpus on Faretta issue

Petitioner was convicted of murder and sentenced to death for the fatal shooting of police officer Scott Winters.  Overturning a federal district court’s issuance of a writ of habeas corpus, the Eleventh Circuit held that the Florida Supreme Court’s decision that the petitioner did not knowingly and voluntarily waive his right to counsel was not contrary to or an unreasonable application of clearly established Supreme Court law.

Holland v. State, 12-12404 (11th Cir. Dec. 29, 2014)

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