Sunday, October 08, 2006

Trial level representation. - Florida Death Penalty

a. Trial level representation.

22. The team found that there was inadequate compensation for trial counsel in death penalty proceedings. ABA Report on Florida at iv.

In addition, the administration of the funding and timing of counsel=s ability to seek payment severely hamper obtaining qualified counsel who has adequate funding for a death penalty case.

Of course, Florida is obligated to provide effective representation at the trial under the Sixth Amendment. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984).

As explained in Strickland, the purpose of this constitutional obligation is insure that the trial is an adequate adversarial testing that produces a reliable result.

Recently, the United States Supreme Court not only recognized that the ABA had promulgated a set of guidelines devoted to setting forth the obligations of defense counsel in capital cases, but found that those guidelines served as a benchmark in further the goal of obtaining a constitutionally adequate adversarial testing. Rompilla v. Beard, 545 U.S. 374 (2005).

With those guidelines in mind, the team recommended that steps be taken to insure the appointment of Aqualified and properly compensated counsel.@ Id. at 174.

The team also recommended that this guarantee include A[a]t least two attorneys@ with access to investigators and mitigation specialists.

One member of the defense team should be trained in mental health screening. Id. at 175-76.

These and the other recommendations made in the ABA Report reflect that Florida has not lived up to its obligation to minimize, if not remove, arbitrary factors from the capital sentencing process.

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