Dara Kam - News Service of Florida

Dara Kam is the Senior Reporter of The News Service Of Florida.

Florida Department of Health

Hundreds of activities are planned around the globe Thursday in recognition of World Cancer Day, but for Florida Surgeon General John Armstrong, the international "holiday" is personal.

Asay mug shot
Florida Department of Corrections

Attorneys for a man convicted of two Jacksonville murders, who’s scheduled to be put to death on St. Patrick's Day, are asking the Florida Supreme Court for a stay in his execution. They’re arguing that case records —including some stored in an insect-infested shed — were destroyed.

Death Row inmate Mark James Asay hasn't had a lawyer to represent him in state court for nearly a decade and had no legal representation when Gov. Rick Scott signed the warrant ordering his execution, Asay's new attorney wrote in a motion filed two weeks ago.

syringe
ZaldyImg via Flickr

A Florida House panel is slated to take up a death-penalty proposal Tuesday, three weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Florida's death-penalty system giving judges, not juries, the power to impose death sentences is unconstitutional.

The 8-1 ruling in the Hurst v. Florida case was centered on what are known as "aggravating" circumstances that must be found before defendants can be sentenced to death. A 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, in a case known as Ring v. Arizona, requires that determination of such aggravating circumstances be made by juries, not judges.

Gage Skidmore / Creative Commons

While Donald Trump banks on his brand to boost him into the White House, a Florida appeals court will hear arguments Tuesday in lawsuits accusing the Republican presidential front runner of misrepresenting his role in a failed beachfront project in Fort Lauderdale.

The 4th District Court of Appeal will hear arguments in two lawsuits related to what was pitched as a swanky, Trump-branded hotel/condominium. Investors have battled in court for years to get back hundreds of thousands of dollars in deposits from the real estate developer and associates.

woman with sign that says, "Stop State Killing"
Kurt and Sybilla via Flickr

Florida lawmakers are pledging to remedy the state's death-penalty sentencing structure after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that the state's method of giving judges the power to impose death sentences is unconstitutional.

greenhouses and plants
Loop's Nursery

Nurseries have filed more than a dozen challenges to the medical-marijuana licenses granted by Florida health officials, with some asking that the licensing process be put on hold until their petitions are heard in court.

As of Monday's 5 p.m. deadline to challenge the licenses, the Department of Health had received 13 petitions, according to agency spokeswoman Mara Gambineri.

greyhounds racing
Rainer Hungershausen via Flickr

Once posh destinations drawing A-list socialites, celebrities and gangsters, Florida's dog and horse tracks are now at the center of a dispute over whether they should be allowed to do away with live racing altogether.

Jamie Adams / Wikimedia Commons

Far from a sure bet, Gov. Rick Scott's $3.1 billion gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida is getting a tepid response from some legislative leaders, virtually guaranteeing that the proposal could require major changes to win enough support for passage.

The agreement, signed by Scott and tribal Chairman James Billie on Monday, equates to a major expansion of gambling in Florida, bringing to the state craps and roulette for Seminole casinos and opening the door for slots and blackjack in areas where a previous agreement prohibited the games.

Jeff Kubina / Flickr

The Florida Supreme Court will decide whether a Gadsden County racetrack should be allowed to have slot machines without the express permission of the Legislature, in a case with widespread implications for gambling throughout the state.

The court on Tuesday accepted jurisdiction in the Gretna Racing case after a split appellate court reversed itself on the issue in October.

Wikipedia

Voters next November will almost certainly have the chance to again decide whether Florida should legalize medical marijuana, after narrowly rejecting an almost-identical proposal a year ago.

A Quinnipiac University poll last month found that nearly 90 percent of Florida voters support allowing adults to use medical marijuana. Numerous other surveys in Florida and across the country consistently show that a majority of voters endorse medical marijuana for sick and dying patients.

And voters aren't the only ones who've warmed up to the once-sticky issue.

Facebook

Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is staging another comeback, this time in a bid for a newly crafted congressional district in Pinellas County that appears tailor-made for the political phoenix.

The Republican-turned-independent-turned Democrat made the widely expected announcement Tuesday in his hometown of St. Petersburg, a year after narrowly losing to Gov. Rick Scott in an attempt to return to the governor's mansion.

"Public service is in my heart. I can't help it. I guess that's fairly obvious," he said.

Prison Legal News

Inmates won't be reading a newspaper banned by Florida corrections officials anytime soon, due to a decision by a Tallahassee federal judge who said the publication's advertisements pose a threat to security.

But in a ruling last week, U.S. District Judge Mark E. Walker also handed a partial victory to Prison Legal News, finding that Department of Corrections officials violated the publication's constitutional due-process rights by failing to provide notification when copies of the monthly periodical were impounded.

Pam Bondi
State of Florida

Same-sex marriage is the law of the land, but the legal battle between Attorney General Pam Bondi and gay couples in Florida continues to drag on.

Lawyers for plaintiffs in a key Florida gay-marriage lawsuit asked a federal appeals court Thursday to reject Bondi's request to dismiss the case as moot. The plaintiffs want Tallahassee U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle, who ruled last year that Florida's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, to issue a permanent injunction against the state.

Ray Hollister / Brett Levin / WJCT News / Flickr

Supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize medical marijuana this week sent 100,000 petitions to county elections supervisors, one of the first steps in getting the proposal before voters next year.

It's the second shot for United for Care, the committee behind the petition drive, to get the proposal on the ballot. A similar plan received 58 percent of the vote in November, just shy of the 60 percent required for passage.

Wikimedia Commons

A sharply-divided U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a challenge to the lethal-injection protocol used in Oklahoma and other states, opening the door for executions to resume in Florida.

In the 5-4 majority opinion issued Monday, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that Oklahoma prisoners failed to prove that the use of the drug midazolam, the first of the three-drug lethal cocktail used also used in Florida, "entails a substantial risk of severe pain."

The petitioners also failed to offer an alternative execution method that would be less painful, Alito wrote.

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