Saturday, April 21, 2018
News Roundup

U.S. Supreme Court overturns death sentence of Florida killer

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down the death sentence of Freddie Lee Hall, who killed a Hernando County sheriff's deputy and a pregnant woman in Sumter County on the same day in 1978.

Hall, 68, had been sentenced to life in prison for killing Deputy Lonnie Coburn and to death for raping and murdering 21-year-old Karol Hurst in Sumter County.

The court, continuing a trend to limit capital punishment, ruled that Florida's IQ score cutoff was too rigid to decide which mentally disabled individuals must be spared the death penalty.

"Florida seeks to execute a man because he scored a 71 instead of 70 on an IQ test," Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority in a 5-4 decision.

This "creates an unacceptable risk that persons with an intellectual disability will be executed, and thus is unconstitutional," Kennedy wrote.

He was joined by the court's four-member liberal wing, a recurring coalition in cases concerning harsh punishments.

When the court barred the execution of people with mental disabilities in 2002 in Atkins vs. Virginia, it largely let the states determine who qualified. Tuesday's decision, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote for the four dissenters, represented a "sea change" in the court's approach.

The ruling will affect not only Florida, which has the nation's second-largest death row, but also as many as eight other states by Kennedy's count, including Virginia and Alabama. They will now be required to take a less mechanical approach to mental disability in capital cases, said Eric M. Freedman, a law professor at Hofstra.

"Death row inmates commonly suffer from multidimensional mental problems," Freedman said. "Today's ruling requires courts to investigate these fully, by looking at the elephant rather than the tail."

Coburn's sister, Judy Mitchel , 51, of Valrico, said after hearing of the ruling, "My heart is in my stomach right now. Thirty-six years and they haven't done anything to (Hall). It's not fair and it's not right to the people he killed."

Experts on both sides said the decision also is likely to slow the pace of executions in Florida, which has accelerated since Rick Scott became governor in 2011.

During Scott's nearly 3 1/2 years in office, Florida has had 17 executions, a faster pace than under any other governor since the state reinstituted the death penalty in 1976.

Jimmy Brown, who prosecuted Hall for both the Coburn and Hurst killings, pointed out that the death sentence of Hall's accomplice in the crimes, Mack Ruffin, was overturned partly because a court found that Hall had planned them.

Brown said Hall, who still faces a sentence of life in prison, planned the killings well. Hall found Hurst by staking out a grocery store in Leesburg, and singled out Hurst because she was pregnant and therefore less likely to fight back, Brown said.

And, Brown said, when Hall was later confronted by Coburn at a convenience store in eastern Hernando County, he knew enough to fire the fatal shot in a gap between the panels of his bulletproof vest.

Hall, he said, is smarter than his IQ showed: "He was very good at solving practical problems."

New York Times contributed

Comments
Marc Topkinís takeaways from Raysí 10-1 Saturday win over Twins

Marc Topkinís takeaways from Raysí 10-1 Saturday win over Twins

* Is it time to take the leap and believe this is the real Blake Snell? He talked a good game this spring and pitched well in his debut, but that rough second outing raised old doubts. But a good outing in Chicago and two dominant ones on the homesta...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays Tales: How low can this team go compared to those Devil Rays days?

Rays Tales: How low can this team go compared to those Devil Rays days?

When the Rays, in the opening weekend of their 20th anniversary celebration season, brought back and honored the inaugural 1998 Devil Rays squad, it got us thinking unexpected thoughts, such as which was a better team:The first one, or the current on...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays Journal: Team effort pays off in 10-1 win over Twins

Rays Journal: Team effort pays off in 10-1 win over Twins

ST. PETERSBURG – Let's be clear here, the Rays still have a long way to go, and a lot of ground to make up.But seeing them play like they did Saturday in beating the Twins 10-1, putting on a solid all-around show in cobbling their first three-g...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning-Devils: How the NHLís top offense went on the defensive

Lightning-Devils: How the NHLís top offense went on the defensive

TAMPA — It was a couple of days after the Lightning beat the Bruins at home late in the regular season when associate coach Rick Bowness talked about how the defensive effort used in that shutout victory was the one the Lightning would need in ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rays will go forth with four starters

Rays will go forth with four starters

ST. PETERSBURG — Three weeks was enough for the Rays to officially ditch their three-man rotation plan.Starting Sunday, they will go forth with Yonny Chirinos as their fourth starter.Which is a five-star idea.The flaws in the three-man plan ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rookie? Lightning D Mikhail Sergachevís playing like a seasoned pro

Rookie? Lightning D Mikhail Sergachevís playing like a seasoned pro

TAMPA — Pardon Mikhail Sergachev if he isn't so good at one of hockey's greatest traditions. After all, growing a Stanley Cup playoff beard isn't easy when you're still just a teenager.As he stood in the Lightning locker room Saturday evening w...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Lightning-Devils: Grading Tampa Bayís clinching 3-1 victory in Game 3

Lightning-Devils: Grading Tampa Bayís clinching 3-1 victory in Game 3

TAMPA — Closers.That's what the Lightning looked like as it closed out the New Jersey Devils in five games with a 3-1 win Saturday.Nikita Kucherov's star power blazed again, the defense controlled the game and not even Jersey goaltend...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Lightning stays patient, even through 0-for-5 power-play drought

Lightning stays patient, even through 0-for-5 power-play drought

TAMPA — The Lightning so dominated the second period Saturday that the Devils had more penalties (five) than shots on goal (four), and yet Tampa Bay was unable to build on a 1-0 lead as they sought to clinch the opening-round series.Nowhere was...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Nikita Kucherovís goal sets Lightning playoff series scoring record

Nikita Kucherovís goal sets Lightning playoff series scoring record

TAMPA — After clinging to a 1-0 lead for more than two periods Saturday, the Lightning got a long-awaited cushion — and ultimately the winning goal — when Nikita Kucherov scored with 7:33 left in the final period of a 3-1 victo...
Updated: 3 hours ago
New Port Richey Woman dies in single-car crash on SR 580

New Port Richey Woman dies in single-car crash on SR 580

A 49-year-old woman died early Saturday in a single-car crash on State Road 580.Kristin Carlin, of New Port Richey, was driving in the eastbound lanes of SR 580 when she failed to round a curve and veered off the road near Charles Avenue, a Clearwate...
Updated: 3 hours ago