The Florida Supreme Court is sending this message to criminal defendants: If you think you were wrongly convicted, keep it to yourself.
Ignoring long-standing law, the justices decided that when defendants dare to dispute their guilt instead of owning the crime, state trial judges may pile on extra prison time.
The court ruled last Thursday in the case of Alvin Davis, a 43-year-old black man with a lengthy rap sheet that includes convictions for attempted murder, robbery and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
After a jury found him guilty of a new charge, firearm possession, Davis told the judge he did not commit the crime.
“You still fail to take any responsibility for your actions,” Tallahassee Circuit Judge Robert Wheeler replied. He slapped Davis with the maximum possible prison sentence, 15 years.
On Thursday the high court voted 5-2 to uphold Davis’s sentence. The opinion settles a conflict among the state’s district courts of appeal with one rule for all: A judge may consider for sentencing purposes “the defendant’s freely offered statements, including those indicating a failure to accept responsibility.”
BEG FOR MERCY OR KEEP QUIET
With that, the justices normalized a penalty for defendants who proclaim their innocence. They’re entitled to address the court before sentencing, a procedure called allocution.