Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Jennings: No habeas relief for Florida death row inmate

In Jennings v. McDonough, No. 05-16363 (July 3, 2007), the Court affirmed the denial of habeas relief to a Florida inmate sentenced to death for a 1979 murder.
The Court found that Florida courts did not misapply the Brady v. Maryland test governing the suppression of evidence. As to one piece of exculpatory evidence, the Court found that Jennings was aware of it, and it therefore was not "suppressed." As to two others, they did not create a reasonable probability of a different outcome.
The Court also rejected Jennings’ ineffectiveness claim against his counsel, finding that the failure to call more witnesses regarding his intoxicated state would not have changed the outcome of the case.
The Court further rejected the argument that the Florida Supreme Court erred when it held that an admittedly erroneous (because unduly vague) instruction on the "cruel" nature of the crime was harmless error. The Court found that the Florida Supreme Court engaged in the correct harmless error analysis. Similarly, the Court found that any error in an instruction on an "aggravator" instruction was harmless, because the facts underlying this aggravator also supported the other aggravating factor that the jury based its death verdict on.