posted 2018 | JW v. State (Polk County)
This complicated case is another example of the importance of hiring an experienced appellate lawyer! Two life sentences were reversed and the client’s confession was excluded. The client was originally arrested in 2006 and charged with capital sexual battery on a minor. Despite the fact that the client had an intellectual disability, he was questioned by law enforcement and eventually admitted to the crime. Due to his disability, his case was dismissed by the court per Florida Statute.
However, in 2014, the state decided to refile the charges against the client. His interrogation was somewhat unusual and defense counsel believed that the client was unable to understand his Miranda warnings. Defense counsel filed a motion to exclude his confession at trial, but it was denied by the trial court. Defense counsel presented an expert at the hearing that talked about the client’s inability to understand Miranda warnings, but the court still believed that the client understood the rights that he gave up.
The client proceeded to trial and he was convicted. The judge sentenced him to the mandatory life sentence for each count. His father then hired Mr. Forman to represent the client on appeal. While reviewing the documents, Mr. Forman realized that the trial court did not give much weight to the client’s intellectual disability when considering whether to allow his confession at trial. This was primarily due to his trial lawyer’s failure to aggressively and properly present the court with the multiple competency evaluations that were done after his arrest. In fact, these critical evaluations were not contained in the record on appeal because they were part of the 2006 case, not the refiled 2014 case.
After a lengthy process, Mr. Forman was able to find these critical documents and requested that the attorney general allow Mr. Forman to use these documents by adding them to the record on appeal. The state agreed, which allowed Mr. Forman to make this his primary basis for appeal. Without the discovery of these documents, Mr. Forman would not have prevailed on appeal. These documents were so critical that the three judge appellate panel unanimously relied on them when they reversed the client’s two life sentences! Without a doubt, most lawyers would have overlooked these critical evaluations from the old 2006 case in defending the re-filed case 2014 case. Needless to say, the client and his father are thrilled with the results!