FEATURED POST

This is America: 9 out of 10 public schools now hold mass shooting drills for students

Image
How "active shooter" drills became normal for a generation of American schoolchildren.
"Are you kids good at running and screaming?" a police officer asks a class of elementary school kids in Akron, Ohio.
His friendly tone then turns serious.
“What I don’t want you to do is hide in the corner if a bad guy comes in the room,” he says. "You gotta get moving."
This training session — shared online by the ALICE Training Institute, a civilian safety training company — reflects the new normal at American public schools. As armed shooters continue their deadly rampages, and while Washington remains stuck on gun control, a new generation of American students have learned to lock and barricade their classroom doors the same way they learn to drop and roll in case of a fire.
The training session is a stark reminder of how American schools have changed since the 1999 Columbine school shooting. School administrators and state lawmakers have realized that a mass shoot…

Florida Supreme Court: More than 200 death row inmates were given unconstitutional death sentences

Florida's death chamber
Florida's death chamber
The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that more than half the people on Florida's death row are entitled to a new sentencing hearing because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling earlier this year that found the state's death penalty unconstitutional.

The decision covers more than 200 inmates — and includes all of those who were sentenced after 2002 or whose appeals were not final by that year.

It is a legal decision that death row inmates, prosecutors, defense attorneys and the families of murder victims have awaited since January, when it became clear that Florida needed to rework its death penalty statute to bring it into line with the way other states handled those cases, specifically by requiring that juries — not judges —make the key findings required to impose a death sentence.

It also suggests that trial courts across Florida are about to be swamped by death row inmates, asking to be resentenced.

All those resentencings would be a Herculean task for trial judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys across the state, said Orange-Osceola Public Defender Robert Wesley who predicted that they could create a backlog that might take ten years to unjam.

The ruling applies to more than 40 Central Florida convicted murderers.

They include Bessman Okafor, who in 2012 murdered an Orange County man who was about to testify against him at a home invasion trial; ax murderer John Buzia, a handyman convicted of killing an elderly Seminole County man in 2004; and Michael Gordon Reynolds, who beat and stabbed to death a Seminole County father, mother and 11-year-old daughter in the community of Geneva in 1998.

A moratorium since January


Thursday's decision is the result of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in January.

By a vote of 8-1, that court ruled that jurors – not a judge – must specifically identify why someone convicted of a capital crime should be put to death.

That case involved Timothy Lee Hurst, a Pensacola man convicted of murdering his boss at a Popeyes Fried Chicken restaurant in 1998 with a box cutter then putting her body in a freezer.

The high court found that Florida's death penalty statute was unconstitutional but left it to the Florida Supreme Court to decide whether the ruling should apply retroactively.

The state has not executed an inmate since then.

The state supreme court has issued several death penalty rulings in the interim. Some hinted that it would interpret the Hurst decision broadly but each stopped short of spelling it out.

On Thursday, that changed. The court laid it out: Every death penalty handed down in Florida since 2002 is unconstitutional. That's 55 percent of the state's death row population.

That's because in 2002 the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a ruling – Ring v. Arizona – that generally said the same thing to the state of Arizona that the high court said to Florida in the Hurst decision 14 years later: Juries – not judges – must decide whether the death penalty is appropriate.

One of the factors the Florida Supreme Court had to take into consideration was how disruptive to the day-to-day workings of Florida's court system their decision would be.

Invalidating every death sentence as unconstitutional, the justices concluded, would be too burdensome. That's why they limited it to those inmates who were sentenced after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the Ring decision in 2002.

Even so, Thursday's decision suggests that any Florida inmate who was given the death penalty after the 2002 is entitled to be resentenced.

That would require a mini-trial in each case at which a new jury would listen to evidence then rule whether the evidence justified the death penalty.

Source: Orlando Sentinel, Rene Stutzman and Gal Tziperman Lotan, December 22, 2016

⚑ | Report an error, an omission; suggest a story or a new angle to an existing story; submit a piece; recommend a resource; contact the webmaster, contact us: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com.


Opposed to Capital Punishment? Help us keep this blog up and running! DONATE!

Most Viewed (Last 30 Days)

Florida: Emilia Carr resentenced to life in prison

British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford on death row in Bali faces losing last-ditch appeal

Texas: Supreme Court rejects Larry Swearingen's plea for DNA testing

Texas: Reginald Blanton executed

Capital Punishment and Extreme Mental Torture

New Mexico: Swift end for House bill to reinstate death penalty

Iran Executed Three Juvenile Offenders in January

20 Minutes to Death: Record of the Last Execution in France

Indiana: Marcus Dansby's death penalty case rescheduled for spring of 2019

Nevada Inmate Serving 2 Life Terms Dead at Age 83, Decades After SCOTUS Overturned His Death Sentence