Can Incurable and Dangerous Mental Illness Lead to Mitigation of Death Sentence to Life Sentence ?

In Miller v. State, 373 So. 2d 882 (Fla. 1979), the Court vacated the trial court's sentence of death where it "considered as an aggravating factor the defendant's allegedly incurable and dangerous mental illness." Id. at 885. Although the trial court in Miller properly conducted its individual analysis of aggravating and mitigating circumstances, we determined that in the final weighing of the mitigating and aggravating circumstances established, the trial court's "use of this nonstatutory aggravating factor as a controlling circumstance tipping the balance in favor of the death penalty was improper." Id. In Miller, this Court vacated a sentence of death because of improper consideration of future dangerousness in making the sentencing decision. The Court stated: The legislature has not authorized consideration of the probability of recurring violent acts by the defendant if he is released on parole in the distant future. To the contrary, a large number of the statutory mitigating factors reflect a legislative determination to mitigate the death penalty in favor of a life sentence for those persons whose responsibility for their violent actions has been substantially diminished as a result of a mental illness, uncontrolled emotional state of mind, or drug abuse. Miller, 373 So. 2d at 886.