A man sentenced to death for killing St. Lucie County Deputy Sgt. Gary Morales will likely be resentenced, according to St. Lucie County Public Defender Diamond Litty.
Litty represented Eriese Tisdale during his trial.
Sgt. Morales was shot and killed during a traffic stop in Fort Pierce in February 2013.
Following Tisdale’s conviction, a jury voted 10-to-2 for the death penalty and a judge later agreed with their recommendation.
But, Friday the Florida Supreme Court ruled that a death sentence requires a unanimous jury.
The decision immediately puts Florida's death penalty sentencing law in limbo.
Litty believes Tisdale will not need a new trial, just a new sentencing hearing.
Morales' brother, Ken Morales, says the decision is disappointing. “To go and do this all over again, to me, it’s like a smack in the face,” Morales said.
Morales thought the sentencing was the last time he would ever have to see Tisdale again. Now, he might have to face his brother's killer in court again.
Jeff Whelen was one of Gary Morales' best friends. “I'm deeply concerned for the family, everyone that has to go through this again,” Whelen said.
Litty said this potential change in the law was one reason the defense fought for the life sentence, knowing the death penalty could be overturned. Litty also wanted to spare both families from having to go through more legal proceedings.
“There would be closure. We wouldn’t have to go through this again. We wouldn’t have to relive this again,” Litty said.
St. Lucie County Sheriff, Ken Mascara, released the following statement:
"While it is yet to be determined if today's decision by the Florida Supreme Court will impact those currently sentenced, it does cause continued heartache for victims and families who could now have to endure additional court proceedings and relive the sentencing process. For the families' sake, I hope the courts will apply this new standard to future cases and allow them to continue to realize the closure needed to heal from these tragic crimes.”
Litty says state law makers will have to have a special session to write the new law.
Chief Assistant State Attorney Tom Bakkedahl is waiting to review the entire Florida Supreme Court decision before commenting.
As of Friday, there were 385 inmates on Florida's death row.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.