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Monday, Oct 16, 2017
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Brooksville man's murder trial set for Oct. 15

BROOKSVILLE - When a judge sentenced John Kalisz to death in March, it was the first time a convicted killer in Hernando County was sent to death row since 1995. Jurors could make it happen again for the second time this year. Circuit Judge Daniel Merritt Jr. denied a series of defense motions Thursday aimed to protect Byron Burch from the risk of becoming the sixth murder defendant from Hernando to be added to the death-row roster. Burch, 41, is accused of murdering 80-year-old Sarah Davis the night of May 15, 2010 in her south Brooksville home.
Authorities said Burch killed Davis, stole her jewelry and hocked it for drugs. Defense attorney Tricia Jenkins filed several motions, but the one that elicited the most favorable response from the judge was the one suggesting Florida's death penalty was unconstitutional based on appellate courts' inability to discern jurors' interpretation of penalty phase testimony. Jurors are required to compare aggravating factors of a homicide and weigh them against mitigating factors, such as the defendant's background and state of mind. "Reviewing courts never know what aggravating and mitigating factors jurors found," said Jenkins. Merritt overruled the motion, but conveyed some support for Jenkins' argument. "Jurors make determinations … but the (higher) court has no idea what they are," he said. In another development, Merritt agreed to reschedule Burch's trial from Aug. 28 to Oct. 15 because of scheduling conflicts. Jurors decided unanimously in January to recommend death for Kalisz, who was convicted of a double homicide. One of his victims was his sister. In addition to Kalisz, the other Hernando murderers on death row are Alfred Fennie, Richard Shere, Paul Hildwin and Freddie Hall.

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