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Florida Supreme Court To Take Up Jacksonville Death Penalty Case


The Florida Supreme Court will decide the fate of a Jacksonville man convicted of murdering two people with a hammer.

The state is challenging a judge’s decision to throw out a jury’s recommendation that Raymond Bright be put to death.

In 2009, Judge Charles Arnold accepted Bright’s death sentence for the bludgeoning deaths of Randall Brown and Derrick King. But five years later, Arnold reversed the jury’s decision to put Bright to death.

As the Florida Times-Union reported, Arnold reasoned that Bright’s lawyers Richard Kuritz and James Nolan didn't do enough to look into Bright’s mental-health history. But the state argues they decided not to as part of their legal strategy, and thus Bright’s sentence shouldn’t be considered the result of a deficient defense.

Nolan died in 2012. The Florida Attorney General’s Office says if he were still alive, he’d agree with prosecutors that Bright’s mental health and history of abuse were simply not part of his legal strategy.

But co-counsel Kuritz has been recorded as saying he thought Nolan’s defense was ill-prepared at the time of sentencing.

Ultimately the Florida Supreme Court will decide in February whether Bright should be executed. 

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.