Tag Archives: cash feenz

Exclusive: Ashley Toye Sentence Overturned, She’s Entitled to a New Sentencing in the Cash Feenz case

Ashley Toye

Ashley Toye mug shot

Ashley Toye was sentenced to life in prison at 17-years old for her involvement in the double murder of Jeffrey and Alexis Sosa in 2006. The facts of the case were troubling; one of the prosecutors who worked on the case told me it was the most troubling and disturbing cases she had worked on in a career of criminal law work. The Sosa’s were kidnapped, tortured, and ultimately killed by a would be rap group/gang under ringleader Kemar Johnston. Johnston allegedly forced Toye and others to participate in the torture, before the victims were taken to a remote area, shot, and their bodies set on fire. The State pursued the death penalty against Johnston, but he was given life in prison. Several other co-defendants agreed to cooperation plea deals to avoid mandatory life sentences on First Degree Felony Murder Charges.

Ms. Toye elected to take her chances at trial. She was pregnant with Johnston’s baby at the time of trial, and claimed that she only participated for fear of what he might have done to her. While she was acquitted of premeditated murder, she was convicted of first degree felony murder, which carries a mandatory life sentence. Life means life in Florida, and Ms. Toye was sentenced without the possibility of parole, in spite of the fact that she was a minor at the time of the offense: she got the same sentence as Mr. Johnston. The case garnered national attention, even a segment on the “Dr. Phil Show” discussing Ms. Toye’s case, specifically. I recommend checking out the episode, specifically for Dr. Phil’s discussion of the purpose and theory regarding juvenile sentencing.

Subsequently, the Supreme Court decided the landmark case of Miller v. Alabama, which found that mandatory life sentences are not permissible against minors under the Constitution. This entitled Toye to a new sentencing hearing. Florida subsequently passed a law governing sentences for minors, indicating that if they killed or intended the death of the victim, they still could be sentenced to life, with a 40 year minimum, albeit with the possibility of review after 25 years. Florida law also provided that if they did not kill or intend the death, there is no minimum sentence and that they are entitled to have their sentence reviewed after 15 years.

Ashley Toye’s most recent prison photo from DOC

Local attorney Stu Pepper took up the case for Toye, and represented her at the new sentencing. Pepper argued that the jury did not find that Toye had intended the death of the victims, in fact, she was acquitted of the premeditated murder charge. That would have required her to have a review after 15 years. Further he, he presented evidence of Toye’s efforts toward rehabilitation in prison and argued for a significantly reduced sentence. Also, the state conceded that it appeared that a term of years with a 15-year review was appropriate. However, the court chose to disregard those arguments, and sentenced Toye to life in prison, without the possibility of review for 25 years.

The case was again appealed, and the 2nd District Court eviscerated the lower court’s sentencing. The 2nd DCA found that Toye could not be sentenced to the greater possible sentence because there had not been a jury finding that she had killed or intended the death of the victims. The court overturned the sentence, and remanded it to the lower court for Ms. Toye to get a brand new sentencing hearing, and indicating that she should be sentenced under the subsection of the statute that does not have a mandatory minimum and allowing her a review after 15 years. Further, the DCA found that the court considered improper factors, so that when she comes back for re-sentencing, she will be entitled to have a new judge hold the new sentencing hearing. The State can appeal this ruling to the Supreme Court of Florida, but I would posit that is unlikely, when the sentencing prosecutor conceded that a life sentence probably wasn’t appropriate.

This is  huge win for the defense, as Ms. Toye will finally have a meaningful chance to not only avoid a life sentence, but to have her sentence reviewed after 15 years. The DCA opinion almost certainly will persuade the new judge that a life sentence is not appropriate- even the State did not argue for it the last time around. I spoke to Mr. Pepper, who was very happy that Ms. Toye will get a new shot at sentencing. Mr. Pepper says that after 7 years, Ms. Toye will be entitled to an early release from prison, which she deserves. Mr. Pepper complimented the appellate attorneys, Mariko Outman and Chris Altenbernd. Pepper said they, “did a fantastic job prosecuting the appeal. The reversal was made possible by their efforts. This is what lawyering is all about.”

Indeed it is… representing an unpopular defendant against whom the system again and again imposed an unjust result is exactly what lawyering is all about.

Cash Feenz Killers Resentenced to Life in Prison

Ashley Toye and Roderick Washington, who were under 18 at the time they took part in the torture and murder of Alexis and Jeffrey Sosa, were back in court yesterday for resentencing. The Supreme court ruled in 2012 in Miller v. Alabama, that mandatory life sentences for juveniles were not proper under the Constitution. Florida passed a new law providing for new sentences for such criminals, and Toye and Washington are among the first to be sentenced under the new law. The judge could have sentenced them to less time, but declined to do so based on the facts of the case that included false imprisonment and torture before the victims were shot. They will have a chance to have their sentences reviewed after 25 years, another provision of the new law that has yet to be tested.

via News-press.com

Kemar Johnston’s Request for New Trial Denied

Kemar Johnston on NBS-2.com

Kemar Johnston, convicted of a couple counts of first degree murder in the Cash Feenz murders several years ago in Cape Coral, had filed a motion for ineffective assistance of counsel. The primary error alleged in the motion was that his attorney prevented him from having a fair trial by admitting to marijuana use. Johnston was facing the death penalty for these crimes, and his attorneys managed to avoid a death sentence. He will appeal the denial of his post-conviction motion.

http://www.nbc-2.com/story/25583316/convicted-lee-co-killer-wants-new-trial#.U4lHn_ldXqQ

More on the Ashley Toye Sentence Being Overturned

 

Ashley Toye

Ashley Toye mug shot

NBC-2 has posted a story with some more details tonight, as does the News-Press. 

You can read the appellate opinion yourself on the 2nd DCA website. The court essentially said the other rulings about juvenile sentencing should apply retroactively, which means Toye is entitled to a resentencing hearing. It doesn’t mean she will be getting out of prison any time soon, but it likely means her life sentence will be reduced.

Ashley Toye’s Life Sentence Overturned

According to Wink news, Ashley Toye’s life sentence has been overturned. Toye was convicted of first degree murder for her involvement in the Cash Feenz murders. Her sentence was challenged when the Supreme Court ruled that automatic life sentences for juveniles were unconstitutional. We’ll have more on Crimcourts soon.

Thoughts about Ashley Toye on Dr. Phil

Ashley Toye

Ashley Toye Mug Shot

I want to give credit to Dr. Phil for a thoughtful show on a complex and emotional issue Yesterday’s show discussed the sentencing of Ashley Toye for her involvement in the murders of two teenagers, known locally as the Cash Feenz cases. He did a good job of presenting arguments from both sides, interviewing family members of both Ms. Toye and of the victims. He also got comments from Ms. Toye appellate attorney, Stu Pepper, and Samantha Syoen who is the communications director for the State Attorney’s Office here in Lee County. The show struggled a bit when he went to the screen and started listing bullet points of the arguments. I think the points on both sides were valid, but he was trying to distill a very complex and reasoned discussion into too short a period of time.

More importantly, I’m glad the discussion is being debated on the sentencing of Juveniles. The Supreme Court mandated that States cannot automatically sentence juveniles to life without parole, as was the case for Ms. Toye. However, under current Florida law, Ms. Toye’s sentence cannot be changed. Dr. Phil is not advocating that it must be changed, he is rather making an argument that a hearing should be held to determine if the sentence is appropriate. The Supreme Court found such automatic sentences to be unconstitutional, it would follow that such a hearing should be held. Perhaps a life sentence is appropriate, but the factors are not currently allowed to be analyzed. Both Dr. Phil, and his legal consultant Sunny Hostin, stated on the show that they feel that it would be appropriate to hold such a hearing. Crimcourts agrees that a sentencing hearing weighing all factors is a good idea, and automatic sentences always run the risk of disproportionate injustice. Perhaps the sentence is just in this case, but we cannot know that without considering the evidence and making an informed ruling.

On a side note, Stu Pepper’s movie, The Cover Up, is being shown on the Lifetime Movie network Sunday at 6 am. I’ve seen it, and it is worth watching- set your DVR!

http://www.drphil.com/shows/show/1951/

Ashley Toye – Cash Feenz Case is on Dr. Phil This Afternoon

Ashley Toye

Ashley Toye mug shot

I have previously discussed the Cash Feenz cases, including Ashley Toye, who’s sentence is being challenged under recent Supreme Court rulings that call into question automatic life sentences for juveniles, especially when they are not the actual killers. Dr. Phil is looking at the case this afternoon, and it appears that not only will he have her attorney, and friend of the firm, Stu Pepper on the show, but he will also talk to family members of the victims to weigh both sides of the issue. It should be compelling television, and Crimcourts is setting the DVR!

 

Ashley Toye case coverage

In case you didn’t catch it on Fox4 last night, Mike Mason did a compelling interview with Ashley Toye from prison that aired last night.  Tonight the story will be continued, with an interview with Toye’s current attorney, Stuart Pepper, who is working to reduce her sentence.  They talk about getting her out, but bear in mind that even a best case scenario for her will not result in her immediate release.  Rather, it’s the chance to get out someday.  She is going to serve long time in prison, no matter what.  As her sentence stands, she will get life in prison with no chance of parole, the question is, should the judge have the discretion to let her out someday.  See my recent discussions of juvenile sentencing if you want to read more. #cashfeenz

Ashley Toye – Cash Feenz case update

Ashley Toye

Ashley Toye mug shot

Ashley Toye, the girlfriend of Cash Feenz ringleader Kemar Johnson, had her motion for new sentence considered, and denied a few days ago.  I missed the hearing, unfortunately, but Matt Grant from Fox4 news was there with the details.  Ms. Toye’s case is interesting, as she was a juvenile at the time of the offense, and was sentenced to a mandatory life sentence, in spite of the fact that she was not involved in the actual killing.  Recent Supreme Court decisions cast that automatic life sentence into doubt.  However, a judge in Miami has ruled that the ruling is not retroactive, and Ms. Toye’s judge ruled that the sentence would stand.  Ms. Toye’s attorney, Stu Pepper, intends to continue trying to get her sentence reconsidered.

Off the cuff, it strikes me that even if the ruling isn’t retroactive, it would still hold that if the sentence was unconstitutional, Ms. Toye’s sentence would also be unconstitutional, regardless of the timing of the ruling.  Mr. Pepper has a long road in front of him, as the courts all over the country are dealing with how to handle the Supreme Court’s rulings regarding juvenile sentencing.

Apparently Ms. Toye will be profiled tonight on Fox4, including an interview in jail.  I can’t find the promo online, but I presume it will be during the 10 o’clock newscast.

For more reading, check out the Sentencing Law and Policy blog, which has had extensive coverage of the Graham and Miller ramifications.  Additionally, we have discussed it a few times here on Crimcourts.

Fort Myers effects from Supreme Court ruling on Juveniles

A good follow-up from the News-Press regarding the recent Supreme Court ruling abolishing automatic mandatory-life sentences for juveniles.  These case were already being re-litigated following the Graham v. Florida ruling a couple of years ago.  The judge must hold a new sentencing hearing for the defendants mentioned here (from the Cash Feenz killings case).  I agree with David Brener’s take in the article- Washington may still get a life sentence, based on his participation in the case, but that Toye probably should be given a reduction.  She was a relatively minor-participant, was under the duress of her controlling, abusive boyfriend at the time, and was very much a juvenile in her mental state.  No one disagrees that she deserves severe punishment, but does she warrant the same punishment of the older boys who masterminded and carried out the killings?  Some would say yes, but the Supreme Court seems to be sending a message that it may not make sense, depending on circumstances.