Saturday, September 4, 2010

Florida High Court Upholds Decision to Lift Death Sentence

Paul Beasley Johnson was brought this morning from death row to be in court for a case management hearing in Bartow, Fla. on Friday March 21, 2003.

The Florida Supreme Court denied a request Thursday to reconsider its decision to lift the death sentences against murderer Paul Beasley Johnson, who in 1981 killed a Polk County Sheriff's deputy and two others.

The court has ordered a new penalty phase for Johnson to decide whether he should remain on death row or be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

The court let the three murder convictions against him stand.

In January, the state's highest court released an opinion saying misconduct by the original prosecutor in Johnson's case means a new penalty phase must be held to decide whether Johnson should be executed or given life in prison.

The state Attorney General's Office filed a motion seeking a rehearing on the opinion.

The Florida Supreme Court's order Thursday denied that request.

Johnson, 61, of Eagle Lake has been on Florida's death row for more than 20 years.

He has twice been found guilty of a drug-fueled rampage that began on the evening of Jan. 8, 1981, and left three people fatally shot, including Deputy Theron A. Burnham, 27.

Johnson was convicted in 1981 of killing Burnham; William Evans, a Winter Haven cab driver; and Darrell Ray Beasley, a Lakeland man who agreed to give Johnson a ride.

In 1986, the Florida Supreme Court ordered a new trial because jury members had not been properly sequestered during their deliberations.

After a mistrial because of juror misconduct, Johnson was retried, and again convicted and sentenced to death in 1988.

Last year, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd organized an online petition, urging the governor to sign Johnson's death warrant.

But the Supreme Court granted Johnson's stay of execution to consider his pending appeal.

The court released an opinion on Jan. 14 calling for lawyers to once again prepare the case for new jurors to hear evidence and arguments about the punishment Johnson receive.

The opinion was critical of the case's original prosecutor and concluded a jailhouse informant should not have been allowed to testify that Johnson intended to "play like he was crazy."

The informant said years later that he lied at trial and testified that he was working under the instruction of authorities to gather information to prosecute Johnson, according to court records.


1 comment:

Joshua Boitt said...

there should never be a death penalty..let nature take its own way