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Death sentence upheld in 1988 murder, sexual battery

The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday rejected an appeal by a Death Row inmate convicted in the 1988 murder and sexual battery of a woman whose badly beaten body was found in a dugout at a little-league baseball field.

Attorneys for inmate Perry Alexander Taylor challenged his death sentence based on a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision and because of disputed evidence about whether Taylor had sexually battered victim Geraldine Birch.

The 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision found that Florida’s death-penalty system was unconstitutional because it gave too much authority to judges, instead of juries, in determining whether death sentences should be imposed.

That decision and subsequent Florida Supreme Court decisions led to a requirement that juries make unanimous recommendations before defendants can be sentenced to death.

A Hillsborough County jury in Taylor’s case voted 8-4 to recommend a death sentence, which was imposed by a judge.

But while the Florida Supreme Court has retroactively applied the unanimity requirement to cases going back to 2002, it has said that earlier cases — such as Taylor’s — are not required to have unanimous recommendations. Justices on Thursday rejected arguments stemming from the unanimity issue and the evidence issue, which was related to testimony by a medical examiner.

Perry, now 51, confessed to killing Birch but said it was not premeditated and that sexual contact was consensual, according to the Supreme Court ruling.

The News Service of Florida provides journalists, lobbyists, government officials and other civic leaders with comprehensive, objective information about the activities of state government year-round.

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