Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Booker: No instruction required when defendant is eligible for parole

In Booker v. Sec., Fla. Dep’t of Corrections, No. 10-14966 (June 19, 2012), the Court denied habeas relief to a Florida death row inmate.
Booker pointed out that during deliberations over whether to sentence him to death, the jury asked whether, if it were to impose a sentence of life with the possibility of parole after serving 25 years, the defendant would get credit for time served. The trial court declined to answer the question. The jury then voted to sentence Booker to death.
In his habeas petition, Booker argued that the district court should have instructed the jury that, because of other consecutive sentences, he was "functionally" barred from ever being paroled. The Court recognized that in Simmons v. South Carolina, the Supreme Court held that in some circumstances a jury must be informed of a defendant’s parole ineligibility. The Court held that Simmons did not clearly govern when, as with Booker, the defendant is statutorily eligible for release on parole.