Cases - On the Docket

Each of the following Florida cases represents a successful appeal of a death sentence (i.e. either guilt phase or penalty phase verdict reversed).  Please note that in some instances, the death sentence was reversed only to be reimposed on re-trial.


Hurst v. State, 18 So. 3d 975 (Fla. 2009).

Judicial Circuit: Escambia County

Trial Counsel Name: Glenn Arnold

Appellate Counsel Name: Jeffrey M. Hazen and Harry Brody

Grounds for reversal: Trial counsel failed to present adequate mitigation of low IQ, brain damage from fetal alcohol syndrome, and borderline intellectual function, which is fundamental in defending against a death sentence.

Subsequent Case History: TBD


Parker v. State, 3 So. 3d 974 (Fla. 2009).

Judicial Circuit: Broward County

Trial Counsel Name: R.H. Hitchock & Theodore Booras

Appellate Counsel Name: Neal A. Dupree, Capital Collateral Regional Counsel, Suzanne Keffer, Assistant CCR Counsel, and Barbara L. Costa, CCRC Staff Attorney

Grounds for reversal: Trial counsel's investigation and presentation of mitigating evidence relating to defendant's mental health and his difficult childhood was both deficient and prejudicial at punishment phase of capital murder prosecution, therefore constituting ineffective assistance. Case remanded to trial court for a new penalty phase proceeding before a jury.

Subsequent case history: Resentenced for 1st Degree Murder, life without parole on 5/20/2009


State v. Pearce, 994 So.2d 1094 (Fla. 2008).

Judicial Circuit: Pasco County

Trial Counsel Name: Paul C. Helm, Private

Appellate Counsel Name: Alfred Ivey, Jr. (Direct Appeal) Bill Jennings, Capital Collateral Regional Counsel, and Richard E. Kiley and James Viggiano, Jr., CCRC Staff Attorneys (Collateral Appeals)

Grounds: Trial court's order granting the defendant a new penalty phase was affirmed because of co-counsel’s failure to provide mitigation evidence and at the time of trial co-counsel had never done a death penalty case, attended death penalty seminars, or understood the ABA rules. Portion of the order granting him a new trial based on ineffective assistance of counsel was reversed.

Subsequent case history: Resentenced for 1st Degree Murder, life without parole on 5/20/2009


Lowe v. State, 2 So. 3d 21 (Fla. 2008).

Judicial Circuit: Indian River County

Trial Counsel Name: Not Provided

Appellate Counsel Name: Neal A. Dupree, Capital Collateral Regional Counsel, Rachel L. Day and Caroline E. Kravath, CCR Counsel

Grounds: Trial court's order upholding Lowe's first-degree murder conviction and granting a new penalty phase was affirmed. Counsel’s failure to discover the potential testimony of two witnesses, for penalty phase of capital murder trial, that one of State's witnesses had confessed to being involved in the attempted robbery and the murder; such testimony would have provided support for two mitigating circumstances, that the death penalty would be disproportionate punishment because other individuals who participated in the crimes had not been punished or even arrested, and that defendant was an accomplice and did not play a major role in the crime.

Subsequent Case History: Resentencing set 1/13/2010


State v. Larzelere, 979 So. 2d 195 (Fla. 2008).

Judicial Circuit: Volusia County
Trial Counsel: John Wilkins and John Howes

Appellate Counsel: Bill Jennings, Capital Collateral Regional Counsel, and David Dixon Hendry, Assistant CCRC

Ruling: Supreme Court affirmed Circuit Court’s decision to remand the case for resentencing based on counsel’s failure to sufficiently investigate penalty-phase mitigation evidence, before defendant's on-the-record waiver of presentation of penalty-phase mitigation evidence in prosecution for murder of her husband; before such waiver, trial counsel had not interviewed family members about defendant's background and counsel had discounted the portions of investigator's report that documented the alcoholism of defendant's father, possible sexual abuse of defendant as a child, and possible spousal abuse inflicted by defendant's prior husband, and counsel did not retain a mental health expert until after jury recommended death sentence.

Subsequent Case History: Resentenced with the possibility of parole in 25 years on 8/1/2008.


Green v. State, 975 So. 2d 1090 (Fla. 2008).

Judicial Circuit: Brevard County

Trial Counsel: John R. Parker

Appellate Counsel: John W. Jennings, Capital Collateral Regional Counsel, and Mark S. Gruber, Assistant CCR Counsel. 

Defendant was prejudiced by defense counsel's deficient performance in prosecution for capital murder in failing to obtain and review file of defendant's prior New York offense of robbery, which was used by the state to establish capital aggravator of a prior violent felony conviction, and thus defendant was denied effective assistance of counsel; prior offense was used by the state to establish capital aggravator of a prior violent felony conviction, defense counsel would have learned from New York file that defendant's youthful-offender adjudication replaced his conviction, and youthful-offender adjudication was not a conviction under New York law and thus could not satisfy capital aggravator. New penalty phase granted.

Subsequent Case History: Resentenced to life imprisonment on 8/13/09.


Williams v. State987 So. 2d 1 (Fla. 2008).

Judicial Circuit: Escambia County

Trial Counsel: Randall Etheridge

Appellate Counsel: Joseph F. McDermott of McDermott Law Firm

Supreme Court  found that Counsel performed deficiently by failing to present mitigation evidence to the trial judge, regarding defendant's mental health and difficult childhood, after jury had recommended life imprisonment, at penalty phase of capital murder trial and remanded case for resentencing.

Subsequent Case History: Mandate entered on 7/28/08 reducing sentence to life imprisonment.


Sims v. State, 967 So. 2d 148 (Fla. 2007).

Judicial Circuit: Miami-Dade County

Trial Counsel: Clinton Pitts & Author Carter

Appellate Counsel: P. Benjamin Duke of Covington and Burling, LLP, New York, New York, and Benjamin S. Waxman of Robbins, Tunkey, Ross, Amsel, Raben, Waxman, and Eiglarsh, P.A

Holding: Supreme Court held that defense counsel rendered deficient performance in capital-murder prosecution by failing to preserve for appellate review trial court's admission of evidence that police officer's canine alerted to presence of narcotics in vehicle that defendant was driving, for purpose of determining whether defendant was denied effective assistance of counsel; neither of defendant's attorneys had a strategic reason for failing to preserve issue. The conviction and sentence were vacated and it was remanded for a new trial.

Subsequent Case History: 7/12/07, reversed and remanded for a new trial; 7/26/07, State filed Motion for Rehearing; 10/11/07, Motion for Rehearing denied; 10/29, Mandate Issued


Blackwood v. State, 946 So. 2d 960 (Fla. 2006).

Judicial Circuit: Broward County

Trial Counsel: Bruce Raticoff, Todd G. Scher

Appellate Counsel: Todd G. Scher, Law Office of Todd G. Scher, P.L.

Grounds for reversal: The fact that the trial counsel wholly abandoned efforts to present evidence from a mental health expert to the jury was unreasonable and supported the trial court's finding of deficient performance. The case was remanded for resentencing.

Subsequent Case History: Resentenced to life in prison.


Orme v. State, 896 So. 2d 725 (Fla. 2005).

Judicial Circuit: Bay County

Trial Counsel: Walter B. Smith

Appellate Counsel: D. Todd Doss

Holding: Supreme Court held that defense counsel's decision to forego further investigation of defendant's diagnosis of bipolar disorder and his subsequent decision to forego presenting this defense amounted to deficient performance and prejudiced the defendant in the sentencing phase of trial. Case was remanded for resentencing.

Subsequent Case History: Resentenced to death on 7/23/07.


State v. Davis, 872 So. 2d 250 (Fla. 2004).

Judicial Circuit: Polk County

Trial Counsel: Howard G. Garrett

Appellate Counsel: Leslie Anne Scalley, Assistant CCRC and Marie-Louise Samuels Parmer, Assistant CCRC

Holding: Trial counsel's statements during voir dire expressing racial animus and admitting his own racial prejudice constituted deficient performance and prejudiced African-American defendant in guilt phase of prosecution for capital murder of white woman; counsel stated that he did not like black people and that they made him mad because they were black, the explicit expression of racial prejudice was not a legitimate tactical approach. Case reversed and remanded for new trial.

Subsequent Case History: 5/17/05, resentenced to Life in Prison


State v. Lewis, 838 So. 2d 1102 (Fla. 2002).

Judicial Circuit: Broward County

Trial Counsel: Not Provided

Appellate Counsel: Todd Scher

Grounds for reversal: During the evidentiary hearings in this case, testimony revealed that Lewis's defense counsel did not have adequate time to fully and properly prepare for Lewis's penalty phase. The court found it necessary to vacate the Defendant's death sentence and to grant the Motion for Rehearing based upon the ineffective assistance of counsel.

Subsequent Case History: Resentenced to Life in Prison


Ragsdale v. State, 798 So. 2d 713 (Fla. 2001).

Judicial Circuit: Pasco County

Trial Counsel: Not Provided

Appellate Counsel: Marc Gruber

Grounds for reversal: The Court reversed and remanded for a new penalty phase because counsel failed to investigate and present mitigation evidence of child abuse.

Subsequent Case History: Resentenced to Life in Prison


State v. Riechmann, 777 So. 2d 342 (Fla. 2000).

Judicial Circuit: Dade County

Trial Counsel: Edward Karhot

Appellate Counsel: Terri Backhus

Grounds for reversal: Court concluded that the Defendant was prejudiced by his counsel's failure to present available mitigation as to his positive character traits, personal history and family background.

Subsequent Case History: 2/1/10, sentencing hearing; stay granted, due 2/1/2056; case closed


Clark v. State, 690 So. 2d 1280 (Fla. 1997).

Judicial Circuit: Hillsborough County

Trial Counsel: 

Appellate Counsel: Patrick D. Doherty, Clearwater; and Richard G. Parker, Thomas J. Karr, Matthew B. PachmanEvelyn L. Becker and Brian P. Brooks

Defendant was prejudiced, during sentencing phase of capital murder trial, by his counsel's deficient performance in making closing argument, which included statements that defendant's case presented his most difficult challenge in arguing against imposition of death penalty, that he was required to argue against death penalty, that defendant was “bad person” from “underbelly of society” and that people like defendant “should be stopped,” and therefore defense counsel's closing argument constituted ineffective assistance of counsel; counsel's statements had effect of encouraging jury to impose death penalty and produced unreliable result.

Subsequent Case History: Written order signed & filed granting motion to preclude the death penalty. Clark was resentenced on 12/20/1997 to life imprisonment, without the possibility of parole.