Florida had a long-standing practice of allowing imposition of the death penalty without the unanimous support of a jury. Before the 2016 ruling in Hurst v. Florida, courts here only required a recommendation of a simple majority of jurors (7-5), though the decision was ultimately up to the judge. Not Ok, ruled the U.S. Supreme Court, finding it a violation of the Sixth Amendment. The state legislature revised the rules, deciding at least 10 out of 12 jurors needed to agree in order to impose the death penalty. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that still wasn’t good enough, as it violated the Eighth Amendment’s provision against cruel and unusual punishment. Juror input and consensus is mandatory in capital cases.
Prosecutors allege a Broward sheriff’s deputy was not entitled to legal immunity under the so-called “stand your ground” law. The state is appealing the ruling last year by Broward Circuit Judge Michael Usan, who ruled the 38-year-old deputy should have immunity from prosecution. The deputy, Peter Peraza, is the first on-duty officer of the law to be charged with a firearm death of a civilian in in Florida in 37 years. As The Sun-Sentinel reported, the deputy faced charges of manslaughter for the 2013 fatal shooting.
The incident happened in Oakland Park, where the 33-year-old decedent was walking through an apartment complex past a pool with children and parents present. He reportedly had a realistic-looking rifle on his back and reportedly ignored Peraza’s orders to set it down. The deputy told the judge he had no choice but to fire his service weapon after decedent turned toward him and his fellow law enforcement officers and appeared to raise it as if to fire. It was later determined that weapon was an air rifle, and it wasn’t loaded. However, members of decedent’s family offered up evidence that he was wearing headphones at the time of the shooting, contrary to testimony given by deputies who insisted there was nothing that obviously indicated to them that he could not hear what they were saying when they ordered him to lay down the weapon.
Intention to appeal was first filed by prosecutors shortly after the judge’s ruling last year, but it was only formally filed late last month. Prosecutors argue that stand your ground immunity can’t be extended to police or other law enforcement officers who are in the midst of making an arrest. Stand your ground allows the use of fatal force to stop a threat that is reasonably deemed imminent. Continue reading
As The Sun-Sentinel recently reported, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley dismissed the second-degree felony case against 25-year-old client Joshua Henry of Pompano Beach. Henry originally faced up to 15 years in prison. He is now a free man.
Ansara aptly argued that the events resulting in the death of Justin Holt, 22, were the result of a “tragic accident,” not criminal action. Continue reading