Teen resentenced in 2007 robbery, murder near Boynton Beach

Linwood Lewis, 26, speaks to a member of his defense team at his resentencing hearing on Monday, July 18, 2016
Linwood Lewis, 26, speaks to a member of his defense team at his resentencing hearing on Monday, July 18, 2016

A man who once sentenced to life in prison for participating in a deadly robbery when he was 17 will be resentenced Monday.

Circuit Judge Edward Garrison will hand down the new sentence Monday for Linwood Lewis at the end of a two-hour resentencing hearing that began at 1 p.m. and is still underway. Assistant Public Defender Jennifer Marshall told the judge that Lewis’ rejection of a 10-year plea offer in the case was a sign that he was not mature enough to understand the gravity of his actions and was therefore undeserving of a life sentence.

Lewis was 17 and Leotis Lester was 17 when they participated in a robbery where another man shot and killed Marc Thibault, 43, in 2007 at his home in Nautica South near Boynton Beach.

Assistant State Attorney Andrew Slater objected to the judge considering the 10-year plea offer in considering his sentence.

Lewis, known to his relatives as Woody, received a new sentencing hearing because of a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring it’s unconstitutional to sentence juveniles to life without parole. Citing studies that juveniles’ brains aren’t fully developed, leading them to make impetuous decisions without considering the consequences, the high court ruled that juveniles have to be given a chance to show they have been rehabilitated.

In response, Florida lawmakers passed a law permitting a life sentence for a juvenile if a judge deems such a sentence is appropriate.

 

Supreme Court throws out Texas abortion law, impact in Florida expected

The U.S. Supreme Court, by a 5-3 vote, on Monday threw out a Texas abortion law that opponents claimed was an end-run around the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that established a woman’s right to choose.

The United States Supreme Court. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
The United States Supreme Court. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The decision is expected to have an impact on efforts in Florida to stop a restrictive abortion law from taking effect July 1. At a hearing Wednesday in Tallahassee, Planned Parenthood affiliates statewide will ask U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle to issue an injunction, blocking the implementation of the measure that stripped funding from chapters throughout the state and, they claim, increased the state’s control over abortion.

Click here to read decision.

In today’s much-anticipated decision, the nation’s high court ruled that the Texas abortion law created an undue burden on women seeking to exercise their constitutional rights.

The measure required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals and required clinics to meet the same standards as outpatient surgical centers. Less than a dozen clinics, mostly in urban parts of the state, could meet the requirements, leaving tens of thousands of Texas women without access to reproductive health care, opponents said. Supporters claimed it was to keep women safe.

“We conclude that neither of these provisions offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in an opinion joined by Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts dissented.

In Breyer’s majority opinion, he noted that the law purported to cure an ill that didn’t exist. Quoting from a lower court decision, he wrote: “The great weight of evidence demonstrates that, before the act’s passage, abortion in Texas was extremely safe with particularly low rates of serious complications and virtually no deaths occurring on account of the procedure.”

Ginsburg, in a separate concurring opinion, underscored statements from the American
College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists that called abortion “one of the safest medical procedures performed in the United States.”

To hinder access to it, as the Texas law sought to do in the guise of protecting women, would endanger women instead, she wrote. “When a State severely limits access to safe and legal procedures, women in
desperate circumstances may resort to unlicensed rogue practitioners, faute de mieux,  at great risk to their health and safety,” she wrote.

Denouncing the ruling, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, disagreed. “Abortion claims the lives of unborn children, and too often endangers their mothers, as well,” Deirdre McQuade, assistant director for pro-life communications for the Catholic bishops said in a statement. “This ruling contradicts the consensus among medical groups that such measures protect women’s lives.”

In a dissent, Thomas said the high court has once again rewritten the constitution to allow abortion clinics to thrive, unchecked. “I write separately to emphasize how today’s decision perpetuates the Court’s habit of applying different rules to different constitutional rights — especially the putative right to abortion,” he wrote.

West Palm Beach civil rights attorney Jim Green, who is representing Planned Parenthood in its battle to overturn Florida’s recently-passed abortion law, said the “undue burden” test that sunk the Texas law will play a key role in his arguments Wednesday to Hinkle.

“The question is, are these restrictions necessary, and the court held that they obviously weren’t,” he said. That decision could bolster his position that Florida’s law is yet another attack on women’s reproductive freedoms.

Florida’s law cut federal funding Planned Parenthood received through the state for non-abortion services, changed the definition of gestation and gave state workers the right to inspect at least 50 percent of medical records at abortion clinics. None of the provisions make women safer, Green said.

They simply create confusion, uncertainty and invade women’s privacy as part of efforts to make it more difficult for women to get abortions, he said.

In court papers, state officials disagreed. They claim Planned Parenthood has no constitutional right to government money. Further, they said, they always had the right to inspect patient records. The  definition of trimesters was changed to clarify, not obfuscate, they said.

Florida officials weren’t immediately available for comment on what effect, if any, the high court’s decision would have on the state’s case.

Check back for further updates.

 

Death penalty trial stalled for sex offender in 1987 cold case

Rodney Clark
Rodney Clark

Jury selection has been postponed in Palm Beach County in a 1987 cold case where a convicted sex offender is accused of raping and killing a 27year-old mother of three.

Jury selection was set to begin Thursday morning in the first degree murder case of Rodney Clark, accused in the death of Dana Fader. But legal arguments stopped that process, and the case is now set for a status check Friday.

Fader, of Lake Worth, was found strangled to death, the tan dress she’d borrowed from her sister hiked up to her waist, in the back seat of her car shortly after relatives reported her missing.

The case went cold until several years ago, when investigators linked DNA from semen found at the scene to Clark. By then, Clark was living in Mississippi.

Authorities arrested Clark in 2013. His case marks the first death penalty case to go to trial locally since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the way Florida courts decide death penalty cases was unconstitutional.

On Monday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a bill changing the state’s death penalty trial process. The new law requires a minimum 10-2 majority recommendation for judges to impose a death sentence.

Previously, judges could impose a death sentence based on a simple majority vote from a jury, and the judge could base his or her ruling on independent findings.