Broward County’s Upcoming Death Penalty Cases

May 10, 2022 Criminal Defense, Violent Crimes

This summer marks the beginning of “capital punishment” season in Florida. The Broward County courthouse will have five different cases deciding whether defendants will go onto death row.

COVID-19 is playing a large factor in the cases all happening all at the same time. Defense attorney Fred Hadded commented, “That backlog prevented all those cases from going forward, and the Florida Supreme Court wants them done. They’ve got to get those cases tried.”

Since there are so many upcoming cases deciding on capital punishment, we will cover the basics of the death penalty, along with a list of the defendants who are facing trial this summer.

Capital Punishment in Florida

The death penalty was reinstituted by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976, and since then Florida has issued 99 executions. 44 of the executions were by electrocution, and the other 55 were issued by lethal injections.

The electric chair was the only method used for execution up until the year 2000 when the state decided to switch to a lethal injection. According to the Department of Corrections, there are 305 inmates currently on death row in Florida. Out of that number, there are 182 white inmates, 113 black inmates, and 10 who are Hispanic or considered “other” ethnic backgrounds. There are only three women currently on death row in Florida.

Capital punishment cases were more common in previous years, and before the lethal injection became an option it was more likely that defendants were sentenced to the electric chair. Defense attorney Hilliard Moldof commented, “At one point in the 80s it seemed like every murder-one case was a death penalty case. I was doing one or two a year. But back then you tried a death penalty case a year from arrest.”

In Florida, the Supreme Court is in charge of holding mandatory jurisdiction of capital cases. Under Article V § 3 of the Florida Constitution, you can read more about how the Supreme Court has the final judgments of imposing the death penalty.

The last time there has been an execution due to the death penalty was in 2019, before the pandemic hit. The record for the most executions in one single year was in 2014, with eight total executions.

If any of the five men listed are sentenced with the death penalty, their sentencing will mark the 100th person since the death penalty was again founded in the constitution in 1972.

The 5 Cases

The following is a list of the five cases on trial this year which may decide issue capital punishment:

  • Jamell Demons (also known as rapper YNW Melly) – The artist was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree murder. Demons was accused of killing two people with another rapper named YNW Bortlen. The two were also accused of staging the crime scene to appear as if it was a drive-by shooting. Demons has pleaded not guilty but faces the death penalty if convicted.
  • Richard Andres and Jonathan Gordon – Andres and Gordon are both facing charges of first-degree murder of Ivan Brandt, who was shot multiple times in the head. The two men were seen on video surveillance forcing their way into Brandt’s home, who stabbed them both while trying to resist the pair. Brandt was shot several times in the head and then the two men drove away.
  • Peter Avsenew – Avsenew was already on death row but is facing a retrial after the Florida Supreme Court overturned his conviction. He has been charged with the murder of the couple Kevin Powell and Stephen Adams, who were shot and bludgeoned to death in 2010. Avsenew was the first person in Broward County to receive the death sentence with a unanimous jury since the state law was passed.
  • Nikolas Cruz – Cruz is facing charges of the murder of 17 people in the 2018 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 17 other people on campus were also injured. This case is expected to take longer than others since it is so complex, involving 17 murder victims. There have also already been several instances of the pretrial jury selection getting prolonged, which you can read about here.

There would have been a sixth person included in the list—Dayonte Resiles—if it wasn’t for the decision recently made to waive the death penalty from his case.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

Receiving capital punishment in a criminal case is the harshest consequence an individual can get. Being accused of any crime can be intimidating, and it can be too difficult to go it alone. If you or a loved one have been accused of a crime, it is important to prioritize finding a reliable defense attorney in Florida. Getting quality legal advice can help immensely in a case, and can make the difference between facing harsh penalties and walking away free. Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have represented clients all across the Sunshine State, and are willing to strategize with you to create a strong defense to your case. Call (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message today for a free consultation.

Written by Karissa Key

Back to Top