PETITIONS FOR WRITS OF CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF
petitions for writs of certiorari are denied.
Justice Sotomayor, dissenting from the denial of certiorari.
now this Court has declined to vacate and remand to the
Florida Supreme Court in cases where that court failed to
address a substantial Eighth Amendment challenge to capital
defendants' sentences, and twice I have dissented from
that inaction. See Truehill v. Florida, 583 U.S.__,
__ (2017); Middleton v. Florida, 583 U.S.__, __
(2018). Four petitioners were involved in those cases. Today
we add two more to the list, for a total of at least six
capital defendants who now face execution by the State
without having received full consideration of their claims.
should not be necessary for me to explain again why
petitioners' challenges are substantial, why the Florida
Supreme Court should have addressed those challenges, or why
this Court has an obligation to intervene. Nevertheless,
recent developments at the Florida Supreme Court compel me to
dissent in full once again.
reminder, like the petitioners in Truehill and
Middleton, Jesse Guardado and Steven Cozzie
challenge their death sentences pursuant to Caldwell v.
Mississippi, 472 U.S. 320 (1985). I summarized those
challenges in Mid-dleton as follows:
"[Petitioners] were sentenced to death under a Florida
capital sentencing scheme that this Court has since declared
unconstitutional. See Hurst v. Florida, 577
U.S.__(2016). Relying on the unanimity of the juries'
recommendations of death, the Florida Supreme Court
post-Hurst declined to disturb the petitioners'
death sentences, reasoning that the unanimity ensured that
jurors had made the necessary findings of fact under
Hurst. By doing so, the Florida Supreme Court
effectively transformed the pre-Hurst jury
recommendations into binding findings of fact with respect to
petitioners' death sentences." 583 U.S., at__
-__ (slip op., at 1-2) (dissenting from denial of
on those pre-Hurst recommendations, rendered after
the juries repeatedly were instructed that their role was
merely advisory, implicates Caldwell, where this
Court recognized that "the uncorrected suggestion that
the responsibility for any ultimate determination of death
will rest with others presents an intolerable danger that the
jury will in fact choose to minimize the importance of its
role, " in contravention of the Eighth Amendment. 472
U.S., at 333.
the dissent from the denial of certiorari in
Truehill, the Florida Supreme Court has on at least
two occasions taken the position that it has, in fact,
considered and rejected petitioners'
Caldwell-based challenges. In Franklin v.
State, - So.3d -, 2018 WL 897427 (Feb. 15, 2018)
(per curiam), the Florida Supreme Court stated that,
"prior to Hurst, [it] repeatedly rejected
Caldwell challenges to the standard jury
instructions." Id., at *3. The decisions it
cited in support of that pre-Hurst precedent rely on
one fact: "Informing the jury that its recommended
sentence is 'advisory' is a correct statement of
Florida law and does not violate Caldwell."
Rigterink v. State, 66 So.3d 866, 897 (Fla. 2011)
(per curiam); Globe v. State, 877 So.2d 663, 673-674
(Fla. 2004) (per curiam) (stating that it has
rejected Caldwell challenges to the standard jury
instructions, citing cases that similarly rely on the fact
that the instructions accurately reflect the advisory nature
of the jurors' role). But of course, "the rationale
underlying [this] previous rejection of the Caldwell
challenge [has] now [been] undermined by this Court in
Hurst, " Truehill, 583 U.S., at(slip op., at
2), and the Florida Supreme Court must therefore
"grapple with the Eighth Amendment implications of [its
subsequent post-Hurst] holding" that
"then-advisory jury findings are now binding and
sufficient to satisfy Hurst, " Middleton, 583
U.S., at__(slip op., at 2). Its pm-Hurst precedent
thus does not absolve the Florida Supreme Court from
addressing petitioners' new post-Hurst
Florida Supreme Court in Franklin did not stop
there, however. It went on to state that it had "also
rejected Caldwell-related Hurst claims" more
recently, citing Truehill v. State, 211 So.3d 930
(Fla. 2017) (per curiam), and Oliver v.
State, 214 So.3d 606 (Fla. 2017) (per curiam),
noting that "the defendants in Oliver and
Truehill petitioned the United States Supreme Court
for a writ of certiorari to review their Caldwell
claims, which the Court denied." Franklin, 2018
WL 897427, *3. This is a surprising statement, because
Quentin Truehill and Terence Oliver were the two petitioners
whose claims were at issue in my dissent in Truehill.
Franklin did not discuss that dissent, joined by two
other Justices, which specifically noted that "the
Florida Supreme Court has failed to address" the
important Caldwell-based challenge.
Truehill, 583 U.S., at __(slip op., at 1). Earlier
this month, in rejecting a motion to vacate a sentence
brought by petitioner Jesse Guardado, the Florida Supreme
Court again held that it had "considered and
rejected" post-Hurst Caldwell-b ased
challenges, citing Franklin, 2018 WL 897427, and
Truehill, 211 So.3d 930. Guardado v. State,
- So. 3d- 2018 WL 1193196, *2 (Mar. 8, 2018).
hard to understand how the Florida Supreme Court
"considered and rejected" these
Caldwell-based challenges based on its decisions in
Truehill and Oliver. Those cases did not
mention or discuss Caldwell. Nor did they mention or
discuss the fundamental Eighth Amendment principle it
announced: "It is constitutionally impermissible to rest
a death sentence on a determination made by a sen-tencer who
has been led to believe that the responsibility for
determining the appropriateness of the defendant's death
rests elsewhere." Caldwell, 472 U.S., at
328-329. In neither Truehill nor Oliver did
the Florida Supreme Court discuss the grave Eighth Amendment
concerns implicated by its finding that the Hurst
violations in those cases are harmless, a conclusion that
transforms those advisory jury recommendations into binding
findings of fact. Although the Florida Supreme Court noted in
Truehill that the defendant in that case
"contends that he is entitled to relief pursuant to
Hurst v. Florida because the jury in his case was
repeatedly instructed regarding the non-binding nature of its
verdict, " 211 __So. 3d__, at 955, that was the first
and last reference to that argument. There was absolutely no
reference to the argument in Oliver. 214 So.3d
the Florida Supreme Court has (again) failed to address an
important and substantial Eighth Amendment challenge to
capital defendants' sentences post-Hurst.
Nothing in its pre-Hurst precedent, nor in its
opinions in Truehill and Oliver, addresses
or resolves these substantial Caldwell-based
challenges. This Court can and should intervene in the face
of this troubling situation.