Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Grim: Statute adequately notifies defendants of death penalty aggravators

In Grim v. Sec. Fla. Dep’t of Corrections, No. 11-11890 (Jan. 22, 2013), the Court affirmed the denial of habeas relief to a Florida death row inmate convicted of a 1998 murder.

The Court rejected the argument that the indictment was defective because it failed to set forth the aggravating factor that was relied on as the basis for the imposition of a death sentence. The Court noted that the Fifth Amendment Indictment Clause is not applicable to the States.

The Court rejected the argument that the sentence was invalid because the jury was not required to find an aggravating factor beyond a reasonable doubt. The Court pointed out that the Florida Supreme Court had found that the jury unanimously found two aggravating factors, and recommended that the defendant be sentenced to death. The Court noted that it had recently held that a system of advisory jury verdicts does not violate the Sixth Amendment.

Finally, the Court rejected the argument that the indictment should have given the defendant notice of the aggravating factors it would rely on in obtaining the death penalty. The Court noted the Florida Supreme Court’s holding that the aggravating factors set forth in Florida’s death penalty statute notify defendants of the factors that support the death penalty, and no United States Supreme Court case has addressed this issue.