- Prosecutors have indicated an intention to seek the death penalty
- Mark Sievers’ attorneys will need assistance
Mark Sievers was back in court last week, as the court considered whether his attorneys can stay on the case. The judge ruled that they can, for now, but they will need to get assistance from an attorney who is qualified to handle death penalty cases. Florida law requires that an attorney working on a death penalty has special qualifications to do so, including previously working on a death penalty trial as second chair to a death-qualified attorney, and neither Mr. Faga nor Mr. Mummert has that qualification. However, they indicated to the court last week that they have been in contact with the death penalty unit, which has agreed to help out. Judge Kyle has agreed to let them stay on the case at this time (provisionally).
Co-defendant Jimmy Rodgers, aka “The Hammer”, was also in court for a case management hearing as well. He is represented by attorney’s for the public defender’s office, who indicated that they are in a holding pattern due to the concern over the qualifications of Sievers’ attorneys. Normally, it would be time to start setting depositions at this time, but it’s important to have a death-qualified attorney, as there are specific death-penalty inquiries that need to be undertaken. For instance, a few years ago a local attorney took over a case that had been handled by a non-qualified attorney, and had to redo many of the depositions to cover additional issues. That’s a waste of time and resources that judge Kyle is being cautious to avoid.
How did we get here? After the third co-defendant, Curtis Wright, pled out to his second-degree murder charge, he gave a proffer (statement) regarding his involvement. Mark Sievers was charged after the State gained Wright’s cooperation. Subsequently, the State presented the case to a grand jury and obtained an indictment for first degree murder. This process is necessary before they can seek the death penalty. The state then filed their notice of the intent to seek the death penalty. Sievers’ attorneys have filed a motion to strike the notice of intent (alleging untimeliness, but the state contends it was filed in a timely manner under the law.) There are many other pretrial issues that remain to be decided, and much investigation and depositions to be done.
Another issue is the validity of the Death Penalty in Florida. The Supreme Court invalidated the procedure for the death penalty, and the legislature promulgated a new law for the procedure. That law was invalidated by a couple judges, but it was reinstated on appeal. The issue will reviewed by the Florida Supreme Court, and it may end up going back to the Supreme Court of the United States. Florida heard arguments in June, but has yet to rule.