Despite the Existence of Substantial Aggravators There Was Substantial Mitigation Making the Death Penalty Disproportionate
In Cooper v. State, 739 So. 2d 82 (Fla. 1999), the Supreme Court of Florida found that despite the existence of substantial aggravation, there was substantial mitigation, making the death penalty disproportionate under our case law. Id. at 85-86.
While the court noted the important mitigators of age and abusive childhood, as well as an eight-to-four jury vote on punishment, the court particularly emphasized the extensive mental health mitigation in our analysis:
In the present case, as noted above, the trial court found that three aggravators had been established, i.e., commission of a prior capital or violent felony (based on a robbery-murder Cooper committed several days after the present crime), commission during a robbery and for pecuniary gain, and cold, calculated, and premeditated (CCP).
This Court in other capital cases has affirmed the death penalty where comparable or less aggravation was present.
Thus, the first prong of the above standard appears to be satisfied.
The trial court additionally found that two statutory and several nonstatutory mitigators were established, including Cooper's low intelligence (i.e., Dr. Schwartz testified that Cooper's test results placed him in the borderline retarded category) and his abusive childhood.
This Court has reversed the death penalty in cases where multiple aggravators were posed against comparable mitigation.
In addition to the evidence of brutal childhood, brain damage, mental retardation, and mental illness (i.e., paranoid schizophrenia) in the present case, the defendant was eighteen years old at the time of the crime and had no criminal record prior to the present offense. We note that the jury vote was eight-to-four.
On this record, we cannot conclude that the present crime is one of the least mitigated murders this Court has reviewed.
In fact, the record shows just the opposite-i.e., that this is one of the most mitigated killings we have reviewed. Accordingly, Cooper's death sentence is disproportionate. Id.