Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Bates: Prayer did not prejudice trial

In Bates v. Sec., Fla. Dep’t of Corrections, No. 13-11882 (Sept. 5, 2014), the Court denied habeas relief to a Florida inmate sentenced to death for a 1982 murder. The Court rejected Bates’ claim that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to an opening prayer, delivered in the presence of the jury, by a minister of the church where, trial testimony later showed, the victim’s funeral service was held. Bates claimed that this prayer urged the jury to improperly base its verdict on divine wisdom and guidance instead of the evidence adduced at trial. Rejecting this claim as speculative, the Court declined to fault trial counsel for failing to move for a mistrial. The Court also rejected the argument that the sentencing jury should have been informed of the defendant’s parole ineligibility. The Court noted that this is required only where the defendant is, as a matter of law, absolutely ineligible for parole, and the State places his future dangerousness at issue.