Case: Lightbourne v. Crist

06-02391 | Florida state trial court

Filed Date: Dec. 14, 2006

Closed Date: 2018

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

On December 14, 2006, a death-sentenced inmate in the Florida prison system filed a lawsuit under Fla. R. App. P. 9.100, which is the Florida All Writs statute, against the Florida Department of Corrections in the Supreme Court of Florida. The plaintiff alleged that his constitutional rights were threatened by the imminent use of pancuronium bromide during the lethal injection process. He argued that the Florida procedures for lethal injection would subject him to cruel and unusual punishment i…

On December 14, 2006, a death-sentenced inmate in the Florida prison system filed a lawsuit under Fla. R. App. P. 9.100, which is the Florida All Writs statute, against the Florida Department of Corrections in the Supreme Court of Florida. The plaintiff alleged that his constitutional rights were threatened by the imminent use of pancuronium bromide during the lethal injection process. He argued that the Florida procedures for lethal injection would subject him to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

On December 14, 2006, the Florida Supreme Court granted partial temporary relief, allowing the plaintiff to designate a representative to attend the autopsy of a recently executed inmate in order to observe the proceedings. The court then relinquished jurisdiction to the Circuit Court of the Fifth Judicial Circuit in Marin County, Florida for a determinate of the plaintiff's request for an independent autopsy of the executed inmate.The plaintiff appealed.

On November 1, 2007, the Supreme Court held that:

1) the time limitation imposed by the Supreme Court and the circuit court, and prisoner's alleged inability to present certain evidence, did not deprive the prisoner of a full and fair hearing,

2) the circuit court erred when it excluded two memoranda that had been prepared by an assistant general counsel for the Department of Corrections (DOC) from evidence; and

3) the lethal injection procedures currently in place in Florida, as actually administered, did not violate the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Therefore, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's order denying relief and Lightbourne's writs petition. 969 So.2d 326.

In 2016, the Supreme Court, in Hurst v. Florida, found Florida's death-penalty sentencing system was unconstitutional because it gave too much authority to judges, instead of juries.

In a subsequent ruling, the Court also required that juries must unanimously agree on critical findings before judges can impose death sentences and must unanimously recommend the death penalty.

Several death row inmates, including Lightbourne, argued that the new requirements should also apply to their cases. In Lightbourne’s original sentencing, no jury count was recorded. It was simply entered into court records that the majority decision was that he should receive the death penalty. Without a numerical count, it was not possible to know whether the decision was unanimous and a resentencing would be able to settle that.

However, the regulation is retroactive only for defendants who were sentenced to death after June 24, 2002. This date was determined based on another U.S. Supreme Court case, Ring v. Arizona, that established a defendant’s right to have a jury, not a judge, decide whether the death penalty is acceptable punishment.

Even though Lightbourne was sentenced before June 24, 2002, his defense attorneys argued that in a hearing held before the Florida Supreme Court about his sentence in October 2002, the court was technically operating under an unconstitutional guideline. The Supreme Court handed down an order based on those hearings in January 2003, according to court documents. Therefore, Lightbourne argued that it was fundamentally unfair that defendants similarly situated will get the benefit of Hurst where others wouldn’t. The state argued that Lightbourne’s case had been decided before the cutoff date and should therefore stand. The Supreme Court held the Hurst requirements should not retroactively apply to the inmates. 235 So.3d 285.

The case is now closed.

Summary Authors

Kristen Sagar (8/28/2007)

Averyn Lee (6/8/2019)


Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Keffer, Suzanne Myers (Florida)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Nunnelley, Kenneth S. (Florida)

Snurkowski , Carolyn (Florida)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Keffer, Suzanne Myers (Florida)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Nunnelley, Kenneth S. (Florida)

Snurkowski , Carolyn (Florida)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

Florida Supreme Court Docket

Lightbourne v. McCollum

Florida state supreme court

May 16, 2007 Docket

Emergency Petition to the Florida Supreme Court

Florida state supreme court

Dec. 14, 2006 Pleading / Motion / Brief

Docket

Last updated May 12, 2022, 8 p.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

State / Territory: Florida

Case Type(s):

Criminal Justice (Other)

Key Dates

Filing Date: Dec. 14, 2006

Closing Date: 2018

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

Prisoners who have constitutional challenges to lethal injection pending in different postures throughout Florida.

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

Florida Department of Corrections, State

Case Details

Causes of Action:

State law

Availably Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Complaint (any)

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Defendant

Nature of Relief:

None

Source of Relief:

Litigation

Issues

Death Penalty:

Lethal Injection - General