A Pasco County judge ordered a new penalty phase for a man on Florida’s Death Row last week based upon a motion for relief filed by Bjorn Brunvand.
Senior Judge William Webb granted the order for resentencing in favor of Phillup Alan Partin, who was sentenced to death in December, 2008 by a jury vote of 9-3 after being found guilty of first-degree murder in July of that year.
While non-unanimous jury votes were frequently allowed to advise judges to pass death sentences in years past in Florida, a United States Supreme Court ruling last year determined that Florida’s capital punishment regime was unconstitutional. The case, styled Hurst v. Florida, held that, due to the holding in another 2002 Supreme Court case (named Ring v. Arizona) that juries must find the aggravating factors necessary to impose a penalty of death, the death-sentencing procedure laid out by the state in 2013 violated the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The Florida Supreme Court subsequently found that those individuals who were sentenced to death by non-unanimous juries after the ruling in Ring was handed down may have been sentenced in an unconstitutional manner. Though Partin’s guilt verdict remains undisturbed by these recent cases, the fact that he was sentenced by a judge advised by a non-unanimous jury after the Ring ruling was published in 2002 was grounds enough for Brunvand to file a successful motion to vacate the death sentence handed Partin and a request that a new sentencing phase be conducted under the new, constitutionally-sound sentencing regime.
Partin is one of approximately seventeen men on Florida’s Death Row from the Tampa Bay area whose sentence was handed down by a judge advised by a non-unanimous jury since the ruling in Ring in 2002. The last man to be executed prior to Hurst was Oscar Bolin in January 2016.