Florida Supreme Court Rejects State’s Petition to Reinstate Overturned Criminal Conviction
After Brannock Humphries & Berman successfully persuaded the First District Court of Appeal to take the extraordinary step of reversing a murder conviction based on insufficient evidence, the Florida Supreme Court denied the State of Florida’s effort to undo the First District’s decision.
The appeal stemmed from a twenty-year-old cold case in Tallahassee. The defendant, Denise Williams, was charged with murdering her husband Mike, even though she was not present at the scene of the crime and did not say or do anything to assist the actual perpetrator, Brian Winchester. Mr. Winchester, who concocted the plan and committed the crime, was not charged. Instead, he offered the only testimony at trial linking Denise to the murder.
Reviewing the evidence, the First District found that Denise could not be held legally responsible for the murder. According to the appellate court, “there was no testimony about anything Denise did—any acts or words uttered—to facilitate the offense, to encourage the offense, or to direct the offense at any point.”
Dissatisfied with the result, the State petitioned the Florida Supreme Court to review the First District’s decision, claiming that it was in conflict with other appellate opinions that review the legal sufficiency of criminal convictions. Following another round of briefing from Brannock Humphries & Berman, the Florida Supreme Court unanimously declined to intervene. The case now returns to the trial court for further proceedings.