TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - The Florida Supreme Court overturned death sentences Thursday for convicted killers from Jacksonville and Zephyrhills.
The justices said Roy Ballard will live out his remaining days in prison for the 2006 murder of his stepdaughter, Autumn Traub of Lakeland. According to court records, authorities believed Ballard, now 70, wanted his 33-year-old stepdaughter out of the way to be able to continue a sexual relationship with her 14-year-old daughter. Traub's body has never been found.
The state's highest court also ruled that Kevin Scott should spend the rest of his life in a Florida prison for his role in a 2007 robbery. He was convicted of fatally shooting Kristo Binjaku in the face during a coin laundry robbery on Jacksonville's south side on June 30, 2007.
While the first-degree murder convictions were upheld in each case, the justices ruled 5-2 that the death penalty was a disproportionate punishment. Justices Charles Canady and Ricky Polston dissented with the majority, affirming the death sentence in both cases.
"Planning in advance and executing a brutal murder for the purpose of continuing an inappropriate and incestuous relationship with the victim's daughter ... certainly qualifies as one of the most aggravated," Polston wrote in his dissent in the Ballard decision.
Ballard is incarcerated at Union Correctional and Scott, 25, at Florida State Prison. Either or both could be moved to another facility after their reclassification or remain where they are, Department of Corrections spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said Thursday. She noted that 397 inmates, including three women, remain on Florida's death row.
The last execution was in February 2010 when Martin Edward Grossman was put to death for the 1984 murder of state wildlife officer Margaret Park in Pinellas County. Grossman was the 69th person executed in Florida since the death penalty was reinstated in the state in 1979 and the 25th to die by lethal injection.
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