As the Markeith Loyd death penalty trial got underway this week, Spectrum News 13 turned to Orlando defense attorney Jonathan Rose for his expert opinion on Loyd’s defense strategy. Click here to watch video interview.
Loyd’s attorneys are trying to make the case that his mental state, due to abuse and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), makes him fearful and delusional, and, therefore, he should not be sentenced to death, but rather to life in prison. Spectrum 13’s Tammie Fields wanted to know if Rose thought this was a good defense strategy.
Orlando defense attorney Jonathan Rose explained that there are a limited number of things the defense can do in a death penalty trial. Presenting mitigating evidence, such as evidence of serious mental illness or incapacity, is a good strategy to try convince jurors that the state should not put Loyd to death. As Loyd’s defense attorney has said, Loyd will not get out of prison; he was convicted of killing Police Lt. Debra Clayton and will serve a life sentence.
Rose also explained that a death penalty trial is different from a murder trial. Both the prosecution and the defense can now present evidence they could not present during the first phase of the trial in which Loyd was found guilty.
During a criminal trial, the rules of evidence are very limited, meaning that all evidence presented has to be relevant to the material facts in the case. During the death penalty phase, however, the rules of evidence are expanded, so the state and the defense can present other evidence they did not present during the murder trial.
Rose noted, for example, that the state can present a lot more evidence about Loyd’s background, criminal history, behavior and his previous murder of his pregnant ex-girlfriend, Sade Dixon, to show that he really should be put to death. The defense, on the other hand, can present evidence of the abuse and trauma Loyd faced throughout his life, which led to his fearful and delusional mental state.
Despite the fact that the state made a very compelling case against Loyd for the murder of Lt. Debra Clayton, Attorney Rose thinks the state has a tougher job than the defense in trying to convince the jury to sentence him to death. He explained that all 12 jurors must support the death penalty in order to sentence Loyd to death, and, in Orange County, chances are that not all of the jurors will be in favor of the death penalty.