State v. Smith, Circuit Court for Fort Walton Beach, Florida

Court: Circuit Court for Fort Walton Beach, Florida

Charge: Felony Murder

Case Number: 1996 CF 1797

Case Category: Circuit Court Reasoning

Position: Out of all of our cases, Patrick Smith’s is the one I am most proud of. Patrick’s case had been in our office one way or another for twelve years. On November 6, 2017, Patrick who had a life sentence, was released from prison.

Patrick along with four “friends” was arrested in 1996 for the charges of Felony Murder and Home Invasion with a Firearm. This was a drug deal gone bad and in a sad set of circumstances the victim is this case died after being shot one time. Patrick was not the gunmen. He was 17 at the time of the offense.

Unfortunately for Patrick and his friends, Florida does not have an “intent requirement” when it comes to Felony murder. All the prosecutor has to prove is that there was an underlying felony and that as a result someone died. In this case, the underlying felony was Home Invasion with a Firearm. Patrick who was represented by a public defender went to a jury trial, was found guilty and was sentenced to a then mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.

I’ve handled Patrick’s case on multiple appeals and Motions for Post-Conviction relief. The Florida First District Court of Appeals and the Florida Supreme Court to finally agreed with our position that Miller v. Alabama’s holding that it is cruel and unusual punishment to sentence a juvenile to life in prison, is retroactive. The Supreme Court ordered that Patrick be resentenced.

Status: On this case, we employed a team concept utilizing the services of Dr. Heather Holmes, PsyD., Mitigation Specialist, Betty Fuentes and a retired Florida Prison Warden Ron McAndrew who testified about prison life and its effect on inmates.

After a lengthy evidentiary hearing, the Honorable William F. Stone held that Patrick’s sentence was disproportionate to his level of participation and that Patrick failed to appreciate the risks and consequences of his participation in the offense. Judge Stone also found that there was “a significant possibility of rehabilitating” the Defendant. Patrick is now a free man and leading a successful life. We are proud of him and proud to help.

Read more about Judge Stone’s order here.

Read the sentence reduction here.