Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Troy: Exclusion of evidence of prison conditions not reason for granting habeas relief from death sentence

In Troy v. Sec., Fla. Dep’t of Corrections, No. 13-10516 (Aug. 15, 2014), the Court affirmed the denial of habeas relief to a Florida death row inmate convicted of a 2001 murder. The Court rejected the argument that, at the penalty phase of the trial, the trial court erroneously testimony from a corrections officer about general conditions for those serving life sentences in Florida prisons. The Court held that, to date, Supreme Court precedent does not require a sentencer to consider this type of testimony. The Court noted that even if the State’s cross-examination of a witness suggested that Troy might use drugs in prison while serving a life sentence, the witness Troy wanted to call “could only speculate about possible incarceration outcomes.” The Court further noted that even if error occurred, it was harmless, because Troy was able to present considerable mitigating evidence, which the jury rejected in light of the aggravating evidence presented. [Martin, J., concurring, stated that de novo review, rather than AEDPA deference, applied to the issue, because it was unclear how Supreme Court precedent applied. However, the concurrence found no basis for granting habeas relief because it agreed with the majority that any error would have been harmless.]