Sidebar With an Expert Capital Litigator
Connecticut Supreme Court: Death Penalty Unconstitutional
This week, a state supreme court held that the death penalty is unconstitutional — and banned all executions in the State of Connecticut. However, the holding is fact-specific to the situation in Connecticut. Three years ago, the state abolished capital punishment — but there were men sitting on Death Row already.
Connecticut Death Row Inmates Win Appeal
So, one of the Death Row inmates filed an appeal, arguing that it was unconstitutional for his execution to not be barred now that the same crime for which he had been sentenced to death would no longer be eligible for capital punishment in Connecticut.
The Connecticut Supreme Court agreed. Read the opinion here.
The Connecticut opinion does more than rule on the situation of what to do about the state’s remaining Death Row inmates, though. It also discusses the death penalty in general and contains arguments against this form of punishment, with language like “… no longer comports with contemporary standards of decency and no longer serves any legitimate penological purpose.”
Those advocating against the continued use of the death penalty in the United States might find this of particular interest.
Juries in a Death Penalty Case: James Holmes and Byron Burch
The jury in the Colorado Death Penalty trial of James Holmes came back against capital punishment this week, and news reports are that the reason Holmes was spared the death penalty was due to a single juror who stood firm against it.
In Colorado, that single juror has big power. Not so in Florida.
For instance, here in Florida, Byron Burch was recently spared the death penalty in a case where Terence Lenamon argued to the jury that he should be spared. The jury agreed, and came back with a recommendation of life without parole.
To read Terry Lenamon's Opening in the Burch Penalty Phase, as well as the one given by the state's attorney, check out our earlier post of visit Terence Lenamon's Online Library (see the left sidebar link).
Florida Jury Difference in Death Penalty Cases
Many people assume that for someone to get the death penalty, there has to be 100% agreement among the jurors, or at least a majority of 10 to 2. Colorado requires an unanimous agreement, which is why that sole juror was able to thwart the state's desire for capital punishment.
However, in Florida, things are different. Here, in a death penalty case, there needs to be a mere 7 to 5 jury vote in favor of the death penalty for a Florida jury to recommend capital punishment for someone.
Which means that it's much easier to get the death penalty in Florida than in other states and why Terry's victory last week is so impressive.
Note: Right now, the United States Supreme Court has a case pending before it that challenges Florida's current death penalty jury process. See our earlier post for details.
Jury Nixes Death Penalty: Lenamon Defends in Sentencing Phase
For Terry Lenamon, it happens almost every day: getting asked why he does what he does — defending people in criminal cases where they are facing the death penalty in some of the most horrific and troubling crimes imaginable.
Byron Burch Case: State Wanted Death Penalty
Take for example his recent trial over in Tampa, Florida, where Byron Burch was facing the death penalty after being found guilty of killing 80 year old Sarah Davis after he broke into her home to steal things. They knew each other: she had hired him to do some handyman chores. She was found in her bathroom, with over 25 knife wounds.
It was a horrific bloody crime and a sad and tragic story. Sarah Davis didn’t deserve to end her days this way.
So how can Terence Lenamon take on the job of arguing that Byron Bunch shouldn’t pay in kind and get capital punishment for this crime?
It’s a balance. It’s looking at the mitigating factors found in the Florida statutes as they compare to the aggravating factors the state argues in its quest for death.
Read Terry's Arguments on Why Byron Bunch Shouldn't Be Executed Here
To hear Terry’s own arguments here, and the state’s as well, we provide the Opening Arguments in the Byron Bunch case so you can read exactly what Terry’s position was in this case — one that rang true with the jury here, because they came back with a recommendation that Byron Bunch be spared the death penalty and be given life without the possibility of parole as his punishment.
Terence Lenamon's Arguments to the Jury against the Death Penalty
Read Death Penalty Defense Attorney Terence Lenamon’s opening statement in the Byron Bunch case here:
Watch the verdict being read here: