The court ordered a new trial for Jacob Dougan, 69, who has been on Death Row for more than four decades for a Jacksonville murder. He was accused of joining a handful of accomplices calling themselves the Black Liberation Army and randomly killing an 18-year-old white man.
In a rare unanimous decision, justices sided with a lower court in ordering a new trial for Dougan, citing a host of legal missteps in his original trial.
The lower court found his lawyer had a conflict of interest because he was cheating on his wife with Dougan’s sister, who he later married.
Justices also agreed that prosecutors concealed evidence of a deal they had with another defendant in the case, who testified against Dougan.
In a separate 5-2 ruling, justices also ordered a new hearing for Frank Walls, 49, on Death Row for the 1987 murders of a couple at their Okaloosa County home during a burglary.
The majority agreed that Walls was entitled to having a court review his claim that his intellectual disability prevented him from receiving a fair trial. Walls has been assessed by doctors as functioning at the level of a 12-year-old and suffering from brain damage, brain dysfunction and major psychiatric disorders.
The rulings follow a pair of decisions last week that threw out the state’s existing death penalty sentencing law, likely halting executions at least for months in a state with nearly 400 Death Row inmates.
Justices said that juries must unanimously recommend death sentences before a judge can impose them and vacated the death sentence of Timothy Lee Hurst, convicted of killing a co-worker at a Pensacola fast-food restaurant in 1998.
In a separate decision involving Larry Darnell Perry, accused of killing his three-month-old son in Central Florida in 2013, justices also blocked the law from being used in ongoing prosecutions – essentially freezing the death penalty in the state.