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Quarles Amicus Brief Quoted in News Service of Florida Article About Challenges to Florida Death Penalty Law

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An amicus curiae brief authored by Quarles & Brady attorneys working pro bono filed in support of a Florida man sentenced to death was quoted in a News Service of Florida article about challenges related to a new Florida law that allows courts to sentence people to death by an 8-4 jury recommendation— the lowest standard in the country.

When the law was passed in April 2023, more than three dozen prisoners on Florida’s death row were awaiting resentencing after being granted relief from their prior sentences of death, after the Florida Supreme Court decided unanimous verdicts were required in the wake of a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling holding that the way Florida imposed sentences of death vioalted capital defendants’ right to jury trial. The Florida Supreme Court later pulled away from that position, opening the door for the 2023 law.

Quarles — led by Melanie Kalmanson, an attorney in the firm’s Litigation & Dispute Resolution Practice Group and a member of the ABA Death Penalty Representation Project’s Steering Committee, along with King Poor, Anthony Pusateri, Gaby Timis, Caroline Calavan and Nicole Perkins — wrote the amicus brief on behalf of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and several other organizations in support of Michael J. Jackson’s appeal of his death sentence to the Florida Supreme Court. The brief was signed by several other organizations, including Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, the Florida Public Defenders Association, Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and the National Association for Criminal Defense Lawyers.

The News Service of Florida article cited the Quarles amicus brief in support of Jackson as an example of the issues before the Florida Supreme Court in Jackson’s appeal. An excerpt:

In a friend-of-the-court-brief filed last week in the Jackson case, a coalition of groups argued that the different death-penalty standards have injected an unconstitutional haphazardness in the resentencing process in cases that were pending when the law changed.

The groups, including the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Florida Public Defender Association, the Florida Justice Institute, Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, argued that the 8-4 requirement has been applied “based on chance.”

The resentencing standards hinged on “an arbitrary line-drawing based on the date” the sentencing was finalized, Melanie Kalmanson, an attorney with the Quarles & Brady LLP firm who frequently writes about the death penalty, wrote on behalf of the groups.

“Data on the Hurst resentencing proceedings show that whether a capital defendant was resentenced under Florida’s post-Hurst unanimity statute or the 8-4 statute is the quintessential game of chance,” the brief filed Thursday said.

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