News from Florida Capital Resource Center

Florida Capital Resource Center Announces Mitigation Workshops!

posted Nov. 19, 2012

Florida Capital Resource Center is pleased to announce the next seminar in the ongoing series of FREE death penalty seminars we are hosting around the State of Florida - Mitigation Workshop: Mitigation Strategies & Techniques for Capital Cases.

Unlike other types of cases, death penalty trials consist of two distinct phases.  The first phase is the guilt/innocence phase, and appears much the same as any other criminal trial.  The second phase is the penalty phase, during which mitigation evidence is presented to the judge and jury to persuade them to sentence the defendant to life in prison instead of death.  However, while mitigation evidence is only presented during the penalty phase, a capital attorney must be focused on it long before the trial ever begins.  It is, therefore, of vital importance that capital litigators understand how to properly gather, prepare, and present mitigation evidence.

With that in mind, Florida Capital Resource Center invites all capital defense attorneys to attend our upcoming Mitigation Workshops, during which our experienced instructors will walk attendees through proper mitigation strategies and techniques that often mean the difference between life and death.  Topics to be discussed include: 

  • Gathering & Presenting Mitigation Evidence
  • Mitigation Themes & Strategies for Both Phases
  • Trauma & Mental Illness
  • Experts
  • Waiver Strategies
  • Preserving the Record
  • ...and more!

As usual, admission to the seminars is FREE and extensive mitigation materials will be provided to all who attend!  Each event will feature different speakers that include local counsel so each event can be tailored to provide local practices and examples.  If you are a capital defense attorney, we invite you to join us for what is sure to be an exciting and enlightening event focused on preparing the type of evidence that will save your client's life!  Mitigation Specialists and Investigators also welcome!


  • Thu Dec. 6 (10am-1:30pm) - Miami - Miami Public Defender's Office - Presenters: Edith Georgi & Stephen Harper
  • Fri Jan. 4 (10am-1:30pm) - Jacksonville - Wyndham Riverwalk Hotel - Presenters: A team of litigators from the ACLU Capital Punishment Project, led by Denny LeBoeuf (Director) and Odalys Rojas (Mitigation Specialist)
  • More dates & locations coming soon - stay tuned!


Lunch will be provided at each location.  For more information or to RSVP, please email Stuart Hartstone at  We thank you all for your support and look forward to seeing you there!!


Last Minute Stay Upheld for Mentally Ill John Ferguson

posted Oct. 24, 2012

The United States Supreme Court has upheld an emergency stay granted by the 11th CIrcuit Court of Appeals for 64-year-old John Errol Ferguson.  This comes after the Florida Supreme Court's determination that, despite a well-documented history of severe mental illness, Ferguson was competent to be executed.

Ferguson is a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic who has made clear that he believes (among other things) he is the "prince of God."  Notwithstanding his delusions, he was set to be executed Tuesday, Oct. 23.  However, after a flury of emergency appeals and requests for a stay - and several denials of the same - the 11th Circuit finally granted an emergency stay to review whether the Florida Supreme Court's decision was an "unreasonable determination of the facts," as it has been held unconstitutional to execute someone who does not understand the nature of or reason for the punishment he is to receive.  Though Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi appealed to the United States Supreme Court to reverse the stay, that request was denied without discussion.  Click here to read the United States Supreme Court's Order denying the request to reverse the stay.

For more information on the Ferguson case, please click here.

**UPDATE** Nov. 5, 2012 :  On Friday night, November 2nd, the 11th Circuit again denied the Florida Attorney General's request to lift the emergency stay in John Errol Ferguson's case.  The denial means that further briefing and argument may be had to show why Ferguson's execution should not move forward as planned.  We will report more as further information becomes available.

Miami Judge Finds Amended Attorney's Fee Statute Unconstitutional

posted Oct. 31, 2012

A circuit court judge in Miami issued an order last week declaring §27.5304, Florida Statutes (2012) unconstitutional.  The statute, which governs fees for private attorneys who have been appointed by the court to represent indigent defendants, was recently amended during the 2012 legislative session.  Under the new provisions, attorney fees that exceed the prescribed rates ($15,000 flat fee in capital cases) will be deducted from a special appropriation made in the General Appropriations Act.  However, once that appropriation is exhuasted, the statute provides that the excess fees are to then be deducted from the state courts' budget.

Representing capital defendant Gregory Martin, attorneys David S. Markus and (FCRC Chairman) Terence M. Lenamon argued that the amended statute was unconstitutional for a variety of reasons, including because it creates a judicial conflict of interest by placing judges in the position of having to determine whether to award attorneys' fees while knowing that doing so could directly affect their own budget.  While Judge Victoria Sigler agreed that this conflict might arise eventually, she found that - at least in the Eleventh Circuit - this issue is not yet ripe because that Circuit's share of the special appropriation has not yet been exhausted.

However, Judge Sigler did agree that the bill passed by the legislature to amend the statute violated Florida's Single-Subject Rule, unconstitutionally addressing multiple, unrelated areas of law.  Moreover, the resulting statutory provision, Judge Sigler found, violated the Separation of Powers Doctrine under the Florida Constitution.  The "practical effect" of the amended statute is to have judges "consider where the funds are going to be appropriated from when awarding fees in excess of the fee limits," she wrote, an exercise that is properly reserved for Florida's Legislature.  Noting that the Senate Bill Analysis and Fiscal Impact Statement made clear that these improper considerations were "by legislative design," Judge Sigler found that the statute violated the separation of powers doctrine and was, therefore, unconstitutional.  

The decision is all but certain to be appealed by the Justice Administrative Commission, the state agency responsible for distributing fees to private court-appointed counsel.

Click here to read Judge Victoria Sigler's Order striking down the statute

Click here to read the Miami Herald's article or editorial discussing Judge Sigler's ruling.

Florida Capital Resource Center Welcomes Karen M. Gottlieb to Board of Directors!

posted August 16, 2012

Karen M. Gottlieb, Esq.  Karen M. Gottlieb, Esq.

Florida Capital Resource Center is excited to introduce Karen M. Gottlieb as the newest addition to our Board of Directors!

Karen M. Gottlieb was an Assistant Public Defender in the Appellate Division of the Miami-Dade Public Defender's Office from 1975 until 1989, during which time she represented both capital defendants and other defendants in appeals and post-conviction proceedings in state and federal courts.  Ms. Gottlieb is the former Chair of the Florida Public Defenders' Capital Litigation Steering Committee and has lectured on effective appellate advocacy and various death-penalty topics for the American Civil Liberties Union, the Florida Public Defenders' Association, The Florida Bar, the Florida Conference of Circuit Court Judges, the South Carolina Bar Association, the Dade County Bar Association, Florida Capital Resource Center, the St. Thomas Law Review Symposium, and the Vermont Law School Capital Punishment Symposium.  She has also authored chapters in the Florida Public Defender's Death Penalty Manual and The Florida Bar's Florida Appellate Practice treatise. 

Click here to read more about Karen!

Florida Capital Resource Center Presents 6 FOR LIFE: JURY SELECTION IN A CAPITAL CASE

posted July 3, 2012

Florida Capital Resource Center is pleased to announce the next seminar in the ongoing series of FREE death penalty seminars we are hosting around the State of Florida.

It has long been said that cases are won or lost in jury selection.  In 6 for Life: Jury Selection in a Capital Case - A Roadmap for Life, defense attorneys Terence Lenamon and Todd Doss will take attendees through the crucial process of jury selection, demonstrating voir dire techniques that are both unique and crucial to capital cases - and often necessary for achieving a life verdict.  Topics to be discussed include:

  • Expanding Your Voir Dire
  • Jury Motions & Questionnaires
  • Front-loading Aggravation
  • Modified Colorado Method
  • Life-Qualified Juries
  • Finding the Killers
  • Preserving the Record
  • and much more!


As usual, admission to the seminars is FREE and extensive trial/voir dire materials will be provided to all who attend!  If you are a capital defense attorney, we invite you to join us for what is sure to be an exciting and enlightening event focused on arguably the most important part of your trial!


  • Fri 7/13 (10am-3pm) - Jacksonville - Wyndham Jacksonville Riverwalk Hotel
  • Thu 8/2 (10am-3pm) - Miami - Miami Public Defender's Office
  • More dates/locations coming soon... 


Lunch will be provided at each location.  For more information or to RSVP, please email Stuart Hartstone at

We thank you all for your support and look forward to seeing you there!!

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