Murder case sentencing on hold for death penalty ruling

- The former ice cream truck driver accused of killing two and injuring four others may not face the death penalty, in spite of prosecutors' requests.

They argue Michael Keetley was seeking revenge when he armed himself with a gun and started shooting at people standing on the front porch of a Hillsborough County home.

Prosecutors want Keetley to pay for the alleged crimes with his life, but a Hillsborough judge put the brakes on a possible death sentence, based on the latest ruling that Florida's death penalty is unconstitutional.

Attorney Anthony Rickman reviewed the decision for FOX 13 News and said, "we are back where we started three months ago where we have no death penalty in Tampa." 

In her ruling, Hillsborough Judge Samantha Ward said state lawmakers did not go far enough when they rushed a new law in March. 

Legislators were reacting to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in January that struck down Florida's death penalty procedures because it gave all the power to a judge and not a jury. Lawmakers fixed that part, but did not require the jury's decision to be unanimous.

Instead, a jury could sentence someone to death on a 10 to 2 vote.

"What the judge said is, that is unconstitutional... The Sixth Amendment of the Constitution requires a unanimous verdict, not a majority of 10, or super a majority of 10," explained Rickman.

Judge Ward's decision comes on the heels of a similar ruling by a Miami judge. Both decisions will be appealed, Rickman believes, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Rickman said it could all have been avoided.

"They rushed, they made it to try to appease everybody. They created a statute that had constitutional flaws, " said Rickman.

Those flaws, Rickman says, will be seized by a murder defendant who may be trying to plead guilty in an effort to dodge death and get a life sentences instead.

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