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May 20, 2010

Florida Supreme Court reverses death sentence on proportionality review

As detailed in this local AP story, Florida's "state Supreme Court has overturned the death sentence of a crack-bingeing killer who beat his girlfriend to death with a baseball bat in the Florida Panhandle." Here are more of the details of the ruling:

The justices, in a 5-2 opinion Thursday, ordered a life sentence for Kirk Douglas Williams for the 2006 murder of Susan Littrell Dykes in Walton County. They ruled Circuit Judge Kelvin Wells erred by rejecting drug impairment as a mitigating factor. 

A psychologist testified Williams was unable to appreciate the criminality of his actions because he was strung out....

The dissenting justices agreed with reversing the death sentence but would have ordered a new sentencing hearing.

The full ruling is available at this link.  Here is how it begins:

This case is before the Court on appeal from a judgment of conviction of first-degree murder and a sentence of death.  This Court has mandatory jurisdiction.  See art. V, § 3(b)(1), Fla. Const. The defendant raises issues related only to the penalty phase: specifically, the trial court‘s findings of multiple aggravating factors and the trial court‘s failure to find uncontroverted statutory mitigation.

Williams is unquestionably guilty of first-degree murder and does not challenge his conviction.  As to the imposition of the death sentence, we conclude that this crime is not one of the most aggravated and least mitigated of murders to qualify for the ultimate penalty — death.  Rather than a carefully planned murder, the evidence demonstrates that this murder occurred after an argument erupted with the victim, with whom Williams lived.  For the reasons fully explained in this opinion, we vacate the death sentence and remand the case for the imposition of a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

May 20, 2010 at 08:06 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Sounds to me like the trial court got it right.

Posted by: federalist | May 20, 2010 9:32:07 PM

Feel the love for the criminal, as these lawyers make drug withdrawal an excuse for murder.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 20, 2010 10:45:23 PM

Sounds like the guy Ohio's about to kill.

Posted by: John K | May 21, 2010 11:29:40 AM

wow. i thought appellate proportionality review, though required by many states' statutory schemes, was a dead letter in practice. i guess reports of its demise have been exaggerated! Sounds like a reasonable ruling, though.

Posted by: Anon | May 21, 2010 5:11:06 PM

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