Florida Supreme Court tosses death sentence

Christian Cruz was convicted of the murder of Christopher Jemery in 2013. File Photo courtesy of the Florida Department of Corrections

July 1 (UPI) — The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday overturned the death sentence for a death row inmate convicted of kidnapping and killing a man in 2013.

The court ordered the lower court to re-sentence Christian Cruz because the trial judge who originally sentenced him considered evidence not presented during the trial.

Cruz and another man, Justen Charles, killed Christopher Jemery in April 2013 after they broke into his Deltona, Fla., apartment looking for drugs. A drug dealer previously lived in the apartment but had let Jemery live there temporarily.

Cruz and Charles beat Jemery before tying him up and putting him in the trunk of his rental car. They then drove him to an industrial area, shot Jemery in the head and left his body.

Prosecutors said Cruz was the triggerman who shot and killed Jemery, and the jury recommended he be sentenced to death. In a separate trial overseen by the same judge, Circuit Court Judge Raul Zambrano, Charles was also convicted, but the jury recommended life in prison without parole.

The state Supreme Court said Cruz must be re-sentenced because Zambrano waited until after Charles’ trial was over to sentence Cruz, and improperly took information from the second trial — that Cruz was the shooter — into consideration in the sentencing.

“We direct the trial court to re-evaluate and re-sentence Cruz based solely on the record evidence presented in Cruz’s trial, not codefendant Charles’ trial. A new penalty phase is not necessary,” the high court said.


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