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Florida Supreme Court - Criminal Headnotes - January 25, 2018

CHARLES LEE V. STATE OF FLORIDA – SENTENCING; NON-HOMICIDE JUVENILE OFFENDER; EIGHTH AMENDMENT; GRAHAM V. FLORIDA

Review of the decision in Lee v. State, 130 So. 3d 707 (Fla. 2d DCA 2013), on a claim of conflict with Kelsey v. State, 206 So. 3d 5 (Fla. 2016), and Johnson v. State, 215 So. 3d 1237 (Fla. 2017).

The defendant was charged as an adult and convicted of attempted first-degree murder with a firearm for a shooting he committed when he was 15. He was sentenced in 2001 to life without parole. After the decision in Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010), he was resentenced to forty years, with a twenty-five year mandatory minimum. He appealed that sentence as well.

The 2nd District appeals court affirmed, saying Graham did not apply to a sentence for a term of years.

The supreme court rejected that analysis, and quoted its decision in Kelsey to the effect that not only does Graham apply to a sentence for a term of years, but that the sentence need not be a "de facto life" sentence to implicate the Eighth Amendment. The court also quoted its decision in Johnson to the effect that after Henry v. State, 175 So. 3d 675 (Fla. 2015), a non-homicide juvenile offender may not be sentenced to a term that does not provide a meaningful opportunity for early release based on a showing of maturity and rehabilitation.

The defendant was to entitled to be resentenced under the 2014 revision to the juvenile sentencing statute, the court said. However, the court rejected the defendant's argument that the trial court should be required to order a new presentence investigation

Justice Polston, dissenting, would apply Graham only to life or "de facto life" sentences.

TAVARES W. SPENCER, JR. V. STATE OF FLORIDA – PEREMPTORY STRIKES; BATSON AND MELBOURNE; PRESERVING THE OBJECTION

Review of the decision in Spencer v. State, 196 So. 3d 400 (Fla. 2d DCA 2016), for a certified question of "great public importance."

The defendant was convicted of attempted first-degree murder, robbery with a firearm, aggravated battery with great bodily harm, and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and was sentenced to four concurrent 25-year terms. On appeal to the 2nd District, he argued that the trial court had erred in overruling his objections to the state's use of peremptory strikes to exclude two black venire persons from the jury.

The appeals court determined the defendant had not preserved the issue, because he had not cited to the trial court any facts to support a claim that the facially neutral reasons the state had given for the peremptory strikes were pretextual.

The appeals court then certified the question whether a defendant seeking to challenge a peremptory strike under Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986), must follow the procedure outlined in Melbourne v. State, 679 So. 2d 759 (Fla. 1996), in order to preserve the issue, or whether Hayes v. State, 94 So. 3d 452 (Fla. 2012), requires the trial court to undertake "a full genuineness analysis" in every instance in which the defendant objects to a peremptory strike, regardless whether the defendant offers any response to the state's proffer of facially neutral reasons.

The supreme court affirmed the result, but disagreed with the appeals court's analysis. It is not strictly necessary, the court said, for the defendant to renew the objection after the state has made its proffer in order to preserve the issue for appeal. However, in the present case the record supported a finding that the trial court had not erred in overruling the objections.

Justice Lawson, concurring in the result, would have affirmed the appeals court's reasoning.