Metro PCS murder suspect's hearing postponed due to Florida death penalty limbo

Julia Jenae reports. 10/24/2016

A Duval County judge allowed a status hearing to be continued in James Rhodes murder case.

Rhodes has been charged with killing 20-year-old Shelby Farah in 2013 while she worked at a Metro PCS store. Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty and say surveillance video shows Rhodes shooting Farah after she turned over the money he demanded at gunpoint.

An Oct. 14 ruling by the Florida Supreme Court in another case has defense attorneys and prosecutors wanting to wait for more clarification from the court.

In State v. Hurst, the Florida Supreme Court decided juries must unanimously agree on the death penalty, otherwise the sentence is unconstitutional.

Farah’s mother, Darlene Farah, attended Rhodes’ status hearing on Monday and again spoke out against the death penalty in the case of her daughter’s accused killer.

“There’s another option. We see everything that's going on with the death penalty, eventually they're probably going to abolish the death penalty,” said Farah after the court proceeding. “Just take [Rhodes’] offer, give him two life sentences plus twenty years, I'm good with that.”

Farah said a proposed lengthy death penalty trial would take too much of a toll on her family. 

“We feel like no one's listening to us, when we're the ones having to go through this,” she said. “All it's doing is causing more harm.”

The Florida Supreme Court has not yet clarified whether their death penalty ruling should be retroactive.  In March, the Florida legislature passed a statute requiring at least a 10-2 vote for a death sentence, however last Friday’s ruling calls the statute unconstitutional.

According to the Florida Department of Corrections, as of October 24, 386 Florida inmates are on death row—72 are Duval county cases.  The majority were put there by jury votes less than unanimous, meaning the Hurst ruling could affect past or pending death penalty cases.

Donald Smith, accused of raping and murdering 8 year old Cherish Perrywinkle in 2013, has had several trial delays due to the death penalty law changes.

The most recent Duval County murder convict to get the death penalty was Randall Deviney in October 2015 by a jury vote of 8 to 4. Deviney sliced his victim’s throat, 65-year old Delores Futrell, in 2008.

Rhodes next hearing date is set for January 24.

(© 2016 WTLV)


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