Jury Rejects Death Penalty in First Broward Case Applying New Law

October 3, 2023 Criminal Defense, Violent Crimes

One of the first Florida cases to experience the new sentencing laws under SB 450 has just finished without imposing execution. Despite the amended law only requiring a majority vote instead of a unanimous vote, the jury in the Clarck Paul case decided not to impose capital punishment.

This page will provide the case details and the trial’s outcome, along with information on another Florida case whose implementation of SB 450 resulted in a mistrial.

Case Details

In August 2016, 28-year-old Clarck Paul was arrested by Broward County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) in relation to two fatal shootings. According to the local news report, 25-year-old Carlos Senluis was shot while driving along Southwest 11th Avenue around 10:30pm. Detectives believe that Paul became angry at Senluis for flashing his car lights as he drove past Paul, who then reacted by shooting at him.

Less than an hour later, 22-year-old Lamont Smalls was shot outside of his home on Northwest 30th Terrace. BCSO spokeswoman, Joy Oglesby, released a statement that Smalls had been a witness in an attempted murder investigation that Paul was a person of interest in. Both Senluis and Smalls died from their injuries.

Investigators charged Paul with second-degree murder for the seemingly random shooting of Senluis, and first-degree murder for Smalls. Paul was convicted for both charges.

State’s Motion to Apply SB 450

On April 24, 2023, only four days after SB 450 was signed into law by Gov. DeSantis, the State filed a motion for the new statute to be applied in Paul’s upcoming trial. Since he was convicted for the murder of Smalls, the new law would only require an 8-4 vote in favor of the death penalty rather than the previously requirement of a unanimous vote.

The following day the Court entered an Order granting the prosecution’s motion to use the newly amended F.S.S. 921.141. The Court’s finding was that they were “required to apply the new law in its current form,” noting that the trial “ha[d] not commenced” as of the date of the Court’s order.

In other words, the new law could be applied to Paul’s case since the trial had not yet begun when SB 450 went into effect as law on July 1, 2023. That meant although he was already found guilty of Smalls’ murder (which constitutes capital punishment as a first-degree murder offense), the jury only had to come to an 8-4 vote in favor of recommending capital punishment for the Court to sentence Paul to death.

Jury’s Rejection

As Broward’s first defendant facing the death penalty under its newest amendment, the jury that convicted him of the murder was required by law to agree, by majority, that there was at least one aggravating factor in the Smalls murder that warranted an execution. Whereas the previous law required a unanimous agreement to recommend death, SB 450 only requires a majority 8-4 vote.

In their decision, the jury did not meet the majority vote recommending execution. This means that they did not impose the death penalty for Paul. Despite the State’s arguments, the jury found that the prosecution did not prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that the murder of Smalls was for the purpose of Paul silencing him from snitching for a previous homicide.

Without the majority recommendation for capital punishment, the verdict mandates a life sentence for Paul, with sentencing scheduled for October 20, 2023.

Contact a Florida Defense Attorney to Represent Your Case

This is just one of the first cases in Florida to apply SB 450. Although this case did not end with a death sentence it does not mean that other defendants will be quite that lucky.. The “tough on crime” stance Florida has taken could provide a reality where more and more citizens are arrested. If the alleged crime constitutes the death penalty, the new laws have paved a much easier route for doing so. This could result in Florida executing more defendants than any other state.

If you or someone you know is facing criminal prosecution, it is in your best interest to consult with a legal representative. By hiring a defense attorney, you ensure that you have an experienced professional on your side to provide you with guidance, support, and a defense strategy to fight the charges against you. Contact Don Pumphrey for help in a criminal case.For more information call (850) 681-7777 or leave us a message on our site. Pumphrey Law Firm will provide you with a free case evaluation.

Written by Karissa Key

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