Justices reject appeal in prison guard murder

The Supreme Court is seen in the early hours of April 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to take up an appeal by a Florida Death Row inmate convicted in the 2008 murder of a prison guard at Tomoka Correctional Institution in Volusia County.

Justices, as is common, did not explain their reasons for declining to hear the appeal by inmate Enoch Hall. Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented.

Hall, now 50, was convicted of murdering corrections officer Donna Fitzgerald. At the time of the murder, Hall worked as a welder in a Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises, or PRIDE, program at Tomoka Correctional Institution. Fitzgerald was found stabbed to death in a PRIDE facility, and Hall admitted that he killed her, according to court documents.

Hall appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court last year after the Florida Supreme Court rejected his arguments. The appeal was rooted in a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found Florida's death-penalty sentencing system was unconstitutional because it gave too much authority to judges, instead of juries.

A subsequent Florida Supreme Court ruling said juries must unanimously agree on critical findings before judges can impose death sentences and must unanimously recommend the death penalty. Hall’s attorneys pointed to an alleged error in how the 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, in a case known as Hurst v. Florida, was carried out.