Monday, September 24, 2018
News Roundup

Retrial of former Jabil executive facing death penalty can move forward, Florida Supreme Court rules

The Florida Supreme Court ruled Monday that the retrial of a former Jabil executive charged with killing his estranged wife and her friend can move forward.

Patrick Evans' case came to a halt last year after the state's highest court ruled that only unanimous juries can sentence defendants to death and that the current law requiring a 10-2 jury vote for the death penalty can't be applied to pending trials.

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Joseph Bulone ruled in October that the trial could go forward as long as jurors were told that, if Evans was convicted of the murders, all 12 of them must vote unanimously to send Evans to death row.

Evans' attorneys from the Pinellas-Pasco Public Defender's Office disagreed and filed an emergency petition with the Florida Supreme Court.

"It is not a court's job to write the law," the petition reads. "There cannot be a fair trial when there is not a constitutional law in place to follow."

In the opinion released Monday, the justices explained that even though the current death penalty statute needs to be revised, most of the law "can be construed constitutionally and otherwise be validly applied to pending prosecutions" as long as the jury unanimously finds the defendant can be sentenced to death.

In a separate ruling, the state court said a motion seeking clarification on the authority of trial courts to apply the current law to pending prosecutions was "denied as moot" and referred to their opinion in the Evans case.

"This decision provides our courts with the clarification needed to proceed with murder cases in which the death penalty is sought," Attorney General Pam Bondi said in a statement Monday.

Last month, the court rescinded an opinion in the Perry vs. Florida case after it accidentally published an order that said prosecutors could not seek death sentences under the current law.

The State Legislature is expected to pass a new statute this session.

Five justices concurred with Monday's Evans opinion. Chief Justice Jorge Labarga wrote that the "unconstitutional portion" of the current law that requires a 10-2 vote can be "separated from the rest" of the statute.

Two justices dissented in part. Although Justice Barbara J. Pariente agreed that the trial phase of a death penalty case could move forward, she disagrees with having sentences imposed without a revised law. Justice Peggy A. Quince concurred.

"What remains uncertain is whether additional appellate issues will be created by penalty phase proceedings conducted without benefit of a new statute," Pariente wrote.

Before his arrest, Evans was a Jabil vice president earning a six-figure salary and was married to Elizabeth Evans, a sales director. She later filed for divorce. On Dec. 20, 2008, she went on a date with a co-worker, Gerald Taylor. Later that day, authorities said, Evans confronted them inside her Gulfport condo and shot them dead.

In 2011, a jury convicted him on two counts of first-degree murder. The next year, a circuit judge sentenced him to death.

But in November 2015, the Florida Supreme Court overturned his conviction, citing errors in a detective's testimony and criticizing a prosecutor's remarks.

A hearing to set a new trial date is scheduled for this morning.

Times staff writer Michael Auslen contributed to this report. Contact Laura C. Morel at [email protected] Follow @lauracmorel.

Comments
Deputy's wife texted 'Kirk has lost his mind' before murder-suicide, friend says

Deputy's wife texted 'Kirk has lost his mind' before murder-suicide, friend says

LAND O'LAKES -- Kristin Kellin got a series of disturbing text messages late Sunday from her friend, Samantha Keithley, who complained about her husband, Kirk. "Kirk has lost his mind Kristin," one text said. "He's literally losing it. He's been har...
Updated: 1 minute ago
John Jonchuck set for spring 2019 trial in death of daughter Phoebe

John Jonchuck set for spring 2019 trial in death of daughter Phoebe

CLEARWATER — The day John Jonchuck was supposed to go on trial in the murder of his 5-year-old daughter, attorneys met instead to discuss a new trial date. The trial scheduled to start Monday was delayed last week after Jonchuck’s attorn...
Updated: 16 minutes ago
Itís state or bust this season for Shorecrest volleyball

Itís state or bust this season for Shorecrest volleyball

ST. PETERSBURG — Shorecrest Prep's volleyball team underwent some changes prior to this season. While the Chargers didn't graduate any players, they did get a new head coach in Raquel Ferreira. And junior setter Annabel Happ and sophomore hitte...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Fall may have arrived, but Tampa Bay area will still feel the heat

Fall may have arrived, but Tampa Bay area will still feel the heat

Falling leaves, cool winds and pumpkin spice characterize the autumn season, which began Saturday. But the Tampa Bay area won't be seeing any differences in our recent hot streak until mid-October, and even then it could be short-lived.Temperatures t...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Firefighters respond to blaze in Lakewood High School gymnasium

Firefighters respond to blaze in Lakewood High School gymnasium

St. Petersburg firefighters responded to a fire early Monday morning in the gymnasium at Lakewood High School.According to St. Petersburg Fire Rescue, firefighters responded to the school around 5:40 a.m. after a maintenance worker discovered the fir...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Rick Stroud previews Bucs-Steelers

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Rick Stroud previews Bucs-Steelers

The Bucs host the Steelers tonight as Monday Night Football comes to town. Will the FitzMagic continue and move Tampa Bay to 3-0? Rick Stroud breaks down the game. Also, Tony Dungy will be enshrined in the team's Ring of Honor.Plus, is there any...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Five new details on Clearwater parking space shooting

Five new details on Clearwater parking space shooting

More than two months have passed since Michael Drejka shot Markeis McGlockton in the parking lot of a convenience store.While developments in the headline-grabbing case have slowed to a trickle as it crawls through the court system, the Tampa Bay Tim...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Hooper: Donít trade progress for pennies. Reject Amendment 1

Hooper: Donít trade progress for pennies. Reject Amendment 1

A lot of Tampa Bay city and county elected officials should be sounding the alarm about Amendment 1.The amendment, one of 12 voters will find on the November ballot, increases the maximum homestead exemption from $50,000 to $75,000, but the devil is ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Drive for January: A look at how the top Group of 5 teams fared

Drive for January: A look at how the top Group of 5 teams fared

For the first time this season, we're examining how USF stacks up in comparison to the other serious Group of Five contenders for the New Year's Six bowl berth.The Group of Five conference champion ranked highest by the College Football Playoff commi...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Port Tampa Bay marks 1 million cruise passengers in a year for the first time ever

Port Tampa Bay marks 1 million cruise passengers in a year for the first time ever

TAMPA ó Port Tampa Bay last week welcomed its 1-millionth cruise ship passenger for the first time ever in a single year.The port hit the milestone on Sept. 17, when the count hit 1,000,524 for this fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30. It rose furthe...
Updated: 5 hours ago