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Evans v. State

Supreme Court of Florida

April 26, 2018

STEVEN MAURICE EVANS Appellant(s)
v.
STATE OF FLORIDA Appellee(s)

          Lower Tribunal No(s).: 481996CF005639000AOX

         Appellant's Motion for Rehearing is hereby denied.

          LABARGA, CJ, and LEWIS, QUINCE, CANADY, POLSTON, and LAWSON, JJ, concur

          PARIENTE, J, concurring in result.

         I concur in the denial of rehearing because I recognize that this Court's decisions regarding Hurst[1] retroactivity are final.[2] I write separately to emphasize how this case demonstrates the unconstitutional arbitrariness created by this Court's Ring[3] cutoff. See Evans v. State, 43 Fla.L.Weekly S29 (Fla. Jan. 24, 2018).

         BACKGROUND

         Evans was convicted of first-degree murder for crimes committed on April 26, 1996, and sentenced to death following a jury's nonunanimous recommendation for death. Evans v. State, 800 So.3d 182, 185-86 (Fla. 2001). This Court's opinion on direct appeal in October 2001 affirmed Evans' first-degree murder conviction and sentence of death. Id. at 187. This Court denied rehearing in December 2001. Id.

         Following this Court's opinion on direct appeal, Evans' counsel, George Burden, an assistant public defender who has handled many capital appeals, attempted to file a petition for a writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court. According to a letter from the United States Supreme Court to Mr. Burden dated April 22, 2002, the Supreme Court received the petition on March 20, 2002, but returned it for failure to comply with several Supreme Court rules. The Supreme Court's letter gave Mr. Burden sixty days to "correct and resubmit" the petition; otherwise, "the petition [would] not be filed." Sixty days from the date of the Supreme Court's letter was June 22, 2002. For "unknown reasons, " neither Evans nor Mr. Burden submitted a corrected petition to the United States Supreme Court. Mot. for Reh'g at 2. As a result, this Court determined in its January 24, 2018, opinion that Evans' sentence of death became final in March 2002. Evans, 43 Fla.L.Weekly at S29; see Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.851(d)(1). Accordingly, this Court denied Evans' claim to Hurst relief pursuant to Hitchcock. Id.

         ANALYSIS

         In his motion for rehearing, Evans argues that this Court should grant rehearing for two reasons: (1) this Court's January 24, 2018, opinion incorrectly determined that his sentence of death became final in March 2002, and (2) "[a]t the very least, this Court should remand this case for an evidentiary hearing to determine whether [Evans'] mental illness was a factor in the non-refiling of the certiorari petition" with the United States Supreme Court. Mot. for Reh'g at 2. Each is addressed in turn below.

         1. Date Evans' Sentence of Death Became Final

         First, Evans argues that this Court should have determined that his sentence of death became final on June 22, 2002-the deadline given by the United States Supreme Court for refiling Evans' petition for a writ of certiorari from this Court's opinion on direct appeal. Evans further argues that this Court's Ring cutoff for determining Hurst retroactivity is arbitrary and capricious because, had Mr. Burden refiled the petition by the Supreme Court's deadline, it would have been pending when the Supreme Court decided Ring days later. Resp. to This Ct's Order to Show Cause at 2. In turn, Evans argues, this Court would have applied Hurst retroactively to his sentence of death. See Mosley v. State, 209 So.3d 1248, 1283 (Fla. 2016). While I believe that the Court properly determined that Evans' sentence became final in March 2002 due to the absence of a properly filed petition for a writ of certiorari, I also agree with Evans that his case rises and falls on "a fatal accident of timing" that demonstrates the unconstitutional arbitrariness created by this Court's Ring cutoff. Resp. to This Ct's Order to Show Cause at 8.

         Two days after the Supreme Court's sixty-day deadline in Evans' case, on June 24, 2002, the Supreme Court decided Ring. Had Evans or Mr. Burden properly sought certiorari in March or corrected the petition by the June 22 deadline, the date of the United States Supreme Court's subsequent decision, assuming it was a denial of certiorari, would have served as the date Evans' conviction and sentence became final. Presumably, under either of these circumstances, Evans would have fallen on the other side of this Court's Ring cutoff and would, therefore, be entitled to the retroactive application of Hurst. Thus, Evans' case shows how this Court's Ring cutoff for Hurst retroactivity creates arbitrariness that has no proper place in death penalty jurisprudence.

         As Justice Perry explained, dissenting in Asay V, the majority's retroactivity decisions determined "that in capital cases where the Sixth Amendment rights of hundreds of persons were violated, it is appropriate to arbitrarily draw a line between June 23 and June 24, 2002-the day before and the day after Ring was decided." 210 So.3d at 38 (Perry, J., dissenting). Likewise, in my concurring in part and dissenting in part opinion in Asay V, I explained that "[t]he majority's conclusion results in an unintended arbitrariness as to who receives relief ...


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