Xbox murders: Re-sentencing trial put on hold amid discussions over Florida's death penalty changes
VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. - - The re-sentencing trial for two men convicted in the 2004 murders of six people in Florida – known as the Deltona ‘Xbox murders" – was put on hold Thursday morning after an appeals court judge granted the state's motion to halt the trial.
Troy Victorino and Jerone Hunter were both convicted of first-degree murder in the 2004 killings and initially sentenced to death. However, their sentences were overturned – and changed to life sentences – after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the state's then capitol punishment rules, which did not require a unanimous jury.
Since then, Florida's state law has changed from not requiring a unanimous jury, to requiring a unanimous jury, to again not requiring a unanimous jury to recommend the death penalty. What is up for debate is which version of the law – and passed at which time – the judge handling the sentencing re-trial should follow in the current case.
On Thursday, Judge Randell Rower read aloud a set of jury instructions that was written and approved by both legal teams and that both teams did not want him to discuss why the case was being paused.
"Good morning. An emergency beyond the parties and the court requires us to take a pause in this trial. You are instructed to continue to followed by order to not research anything about the case or discuss the case or your jury service with anyone," Judge Randell Rowe said.
He said the court would reach out to the jury when the trial would be allowed to resume.
"I cannot tell you when that may be, but everyone is working hard to resume trial as quickly as possible," he said. Moments later, the jury was escorted out of the courtroom.
Earlier this year, Gov. DeSantis signed a bill that would allow a jury to vote 8-4 to recommend the death penalty. This bill came in response to the Parkland school shooting trial, where the convicted killer was sentenced to life because the jury in that case was unable to unanimously agree on death, leading to outrage among the parents who lost children in that massacre.
The state wants the judge to apply the newly-passed law to the case, which does not require a unanimous jury to recommend the death penalty. However, the judge said he would abide by the previous law, which did.