Thursday, January 14, 2010

Court Vacates Johnson's Death Sentence

Court Vacates Johnson's Death Sentence

Scott Wheeler The Ledger

Paul Beasley Johnson

By Bill Rufty

Published: Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 11:33 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 11:33 a.m.

TALLAHASSEE The Florida Supreme Court today vacated the death sentence of triple murderer Paul Beasley Johnson and sent the matter back to Polk County for a new sentencing phase.

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However, the ruling does not mean that Johnson, sitting on death row for the 1981 murders of a Polk County Sheriff's deputy and two others, could not again be sentenced to death.

The court ruled on Johnson's attorneys' contention that errors by the prosecutors may have lead the jury into recommending death following his convictions, noting that , “the record here is so rife with evidence of previously undisclosed prosecutorial misconduct that we have no choice but to grant relief.”

The ruling said that Johnson “was induced” to make incriminating statements to a jailhouse informant in violation of Johnson‘s right to counsel. The court further criticized the prosecutor at Johnson‘s first trial “knowingly used false testimony and misleading argument to convince the court to admit the testimony.”

“It must be emphasized that in our American legal system there is no room for such misconduct, no matter how disturbing a crime may be or how unsympathetic a defendant is.”

The case now goes back to the 12th Judicial Circuit for a new sentencing phase before a new jury.

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