Court Rejects a Florida Defendant’s Attempt to Set Forth Defenses Post-Conviction

There are numerous defenses and arguments a criminal defendant may be able to set forth to avoid a conviction or a severe sentence. As explained in a recent Florida case in which the defendant was convicted of numerous violent crimes, including first-degree murder, most defenses cannot be argued retroactively, however. If you are charged with murder, attempted murder, or any other violent crime, it is critical to retain an assertive St. Petersburg violent crime defense attorney to discuss what defenses you may be able to assert to protect your rights.

The Defendant’s Conviction and Appeal

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with and convicted of first-degree murder of his ex-girlfriend, attempted first-degree murder with a firearm, and burglary. He was sentenced to death for the first-degree murder conviction, and the sentence eventually became final. The defendant then filed a post-conviction motion asking the court for relief on several grounds. The court denied the defendant’s motion and affirmed his sentence. The defendant then appealed.

Post-Conviction Defenses

First, the defendant argued on appeal that he was entitled to relief under Atkins v. Virginia, a United States Supreme Court case and cases that were subsequently decided in the Florida courts, on the grounds that he suffered from an intellectual disability. The court rejected this assertion, stating that the law was clear that relief for an intellectual disability could not be granted retroactively. Thus, the court affirmed the lower court ruling dismissing the petition for relief due to intellectual disability as time-barred.

Further, the defendant sought relief under a second United States Supreme Court case, Hurst v. State, which ruled that pursuant to the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution, a court could not impose a death-penalty sentence unless the jury ruling on the defendant’s guilt found aggravating factors. Although the defendant was sentenced prior to the Hurst ruling, he was convicted of attempted first-degree murder with a firearm and burglary, which under Florida law is sufficient to satisfy the requirement that the jury finds an aggravating circumstance unanimously and beyond a reasonable doubt. The court further rejected that it did not violate the defendant’s rights under Florida law to refer to a jury’s role in any decisions rendered prior to Hurst as advisory, noting that a defendant could not use current case law to attempt to retroactively argue that jury instructions that were proper at the time they were issued are now improper under Florida law. As such, the court affirmed the lower court ruling denying the defendant’s petition to vacate his sentence pursuant to Hurst.

Speak to a Proficient Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are a resident of  St. Petersburg that was recently charged with a violent crime, it is prudent to speak to an attorney regarding what defense you may be able to set forth to avoid a conviction or a lengthy sentence. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a dedicated St. Petersburg violent crime defense attorney who fights to help criminal defendants seek the best outcome available under the circumstances. Mr. Hanlon can be contacted through the online form or at 727-897-5413 to schedule a conference.

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