Sotomayor Takes Aim at Florida Death-Penalty Trend

WASHINGTON (CN) – Marking her fourth such dissent in the last year, Justice Sonia Sotomayor chided her Supreme Court colleagues on Monday for turning down a Florida death-penalty case that implicates Eight Amendment concerns.

“Like a number of other capital defendants in Florida, petitioner Leo Louis Kaczmar has raised an important Eighth Amendment challenge to his death sentence that went unaddressed by the Florida Supreme Court,” Sotomayor wrote. “Specifically, he argues that the jury instructions in his case impermissibly diminished the jurors’ sense of responsibility as to the ultimate determination of death, in violation of Caldwell v. Mississippi.”

Sotomayor first cited the 1985 decision in Caldwell last year when the Supreme Court denied certiorari in the case Truehill v. Florida.

Over the past six months, Sotomayor issued similar dissents in the cases Guardado v. Florida and Middleton v. Florida.

Sotomayor noted that this past April in a case by inmate Michael Gordon Reynolds, the Florida Supreme Court “finally set out to ‘explicitly address’ the Caldwell claim.”

“The resulting opinion, however, gathered the support only of a plurality, so the issue remains without definitive resolution by the Florida Supreme Court,” Sotomayor wrote. “Thus, for the reasons previously stated in Truehill, Middleton, and Guardado, I again respectfully dissent from the denial of certiorari.”

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