February 9, 2016
Gusty winds blew a limb into a power line in Walnut Hill Tuesday morning near the Walnut Hill Fire Station on Highway 97. That caused a power outage for a large number of Escambia River Electric Cooperative customers in the Walnut Hill area, including Ernest Ward Middle School. NorthEscambia.com photo, click to enlarge.
February 9, 2016
Northview High School’s NJROTC unit will have its annual Area Manager’s Inspection (AMI) on Wednesday, February 10 beginning at 9 a.m. in the school gym.
The inspection includes a uniform inspection of each of the unit’s cadets, drill team performance, cadet recognition, pass in review, unit brief to the inspecting officer and awards. The inspecting officer this year is Captain Mark Truluck, Commanding Officer, Naval Aviation Schools Command, NAS Pensacola.
Family members and the community are invited to attend.
February 9, 2016
Senate Judiciary Chairman Miguel Diaz de la Portilla may not bring up a controversial open-carry gun measure in his committee during this year’s legislative session.
The move would effectively stop the proposal (SB 300), which is strongly backed by Second Amendment groups, including the National Rifle Association.
Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, told reporters on Monday that he has grown uneasy with the proposal. The House passed its version of the bill last week after adding an amendment that would allow state lawmakers to carry sidearms into legislative meetings.
“I am concerned that it may become a vehicle for some very, very bad amendments. I think that’s what we learned last week,” Diaz de la Portilla said. “Because of those concerns, I’m very, very seriously considering not hearing it at all.”
Diaz de la Portilla said he’ll decide later this week if the bill will be heard by his committee. The bill would allow the nearly 1.5 million people in Florida with concealed-weapons licenses to openly carry guns in most public places. The House voted 80-38 to approve its version last week.
by The News Service of Florida
February 9, 2016
After hearing from a former prisoner who spent 17 years on Florida’s Death Row for a crime he didn’t commit, the Senate Criminal Justice Committee unanimously approved a measure that would overhaul the state’s death-penalty sentencing structure.
Monday’s action by the Senate committee puts the upper chamber at odds with the House over how to address a U.S. Supreme Court decision, in a case known as Hurst v. Florida, that overturned the state’s death-penalty sentencing system.
Last month’s 8-1 ruling, which centered on the sentencing phase of death-penalty cases after defendants are found guilty, dealt with what are known as “aggravating” circumstances that must be determined before defendants can be sentenced to death. A 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, in a case known as Ring v. Arizona, requires that determination of such aggravating circumstances be made by juries, not judges.
Under Florida law, juries make recommendations regarding the death penalty, based on a review of aggravating and mitigating circumstances, but judges ultimately decide whether defendants should be put to death or sentenced to life in prison.
The Senate proposal (SB 7068) would require unanimous decisions on at least one aggravating factor and would also require a unanimous jury recommendation for the death penalty to be imposed. Under current law, a majority of jurors has to decide that at least one aggravator exists, but juries are not required to provide information about the votes on each of the aggravators.
A House measure (PCB CRJS 16-07), backed by state prosecutors, would require unanimity for the aggravators, but would only require a 9-3 vote to recommend death. The House bill will get a second vetting Wednesday.
Of the 32 states with the death penalty, Florida is one of only three states — including Delaware and Alabama — that do not require unanimous jury decisions for capital punishment. Like Florida, Delaware recently issued a moratorium on executions while the state Supreme Court considers the impact of the Hurst case.
Sen. Rob Bradley, a former prosecutor, grilled 5th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Brad King about the 9-3 jury recommendation, asking if any other state had a lower bar for the death penalty.
“I support the death penalty…but I also have a duty to craft laws that will survive constitutional scrutiny from our courts,” Bradley, R-Fleming Island, said.
King repeatedly sidestepped the question, saying that Florida’s “system” differs from that of other states.
“And they just found our system to be unconstitutional,” Bradley pointed out. “Our correcting of that would be to have the lowest threshold of any other state.”
With the exception of the state attorneys, other death penalty experts are recommending unanimity for death sentence recommendations, as is required for jury verdicts in other cases. Because nearly all of the other states with the death penalty require unanimity for death sentences, being so outside of the mainstream puts Florida at risk in a future Supreme Court case, the experts warned.
But, echoing arguments he has made at previous hearings on the issue, King said requiring a unanimous recommendation would allow a single juror to “hijack” the process.
Under questioning from Bradley, King said prosecutors suggested the 9-3 jury recommendation but had discussed whether “10-2 might be the number we might land on.”
Asked by Bradley if the state attorneys support the 10-2 jury recommendation, King said, “It was more, honestly, a political evaluation of where everybody stood.”
Lawmakers are under pressure to come up with a fix for the death penalty sentencing before the 2016 session ends March 11.
The Florida Supreme Court last week indefinitely postponed the scheduled Feb. 11 execution of Cary Michael Lambrix, shortly after hearing arguments that concentrated on the impact of the Hurst decision on Death Row inmates. A flurry of appeals from other Death Row inmates is expected.
Before voting on the measure without any debate Monday, the Senate panel heard from Juan Melendez, who said he spent “17 years, eight months and one day on Death Row for a crime I did not commit.” Melendez, who was exonerated in 2002, told the committee that the jury recommendation for death in his case was 9-3.
Melendez said “it makes no sense” that jury recommendations not be unanimous when all other jury votes are.
“You always can release an innocent man from prison. But you can never and I repeat, never release an innocent man from the grave. Your bill would encourage deliberation when you’re considering a death sentence,” he said.
by Dara Kam, The News Service of Florida
February 8, 2016
The Pensacola Opera will present free performances of the endearing tale “Jack and the Beanstalk” at two local library branches this week.
The first performance will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Century Branch Library. The second performance will be at 10:30 Wednesday morning at the Molino Branch Library.
Courtesy photo for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.
February 8, 2016
The Blue Angels helped kick off the 2016 Super Bowl when they performed a flyover at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA, on Sunday.
The Blue Angels’ signature six-jet Delta Formation soared over more than 70,000 spectators at the stadium, following the national anthem.
“It doesn’t get more exciting than representing the Navy and Marine Corps while flying over the world’s premier sporting event,” said Blue Angels Slot Pilot Lt. Ryan Chamberlain. “Navy and marines serving all around the world should be proud of their efforts which make opportunities like this possible.”
Flight Leader and Commanding Officer Cmdr. Ryan Bernacchi, a native of Los Altos, CA, was proud to fly over his hometown.
“Being able to come back to the area you grew up in and being able to represent the Navy is always special, but being a part of this great American tradition makes this privilege that much more incredible,” said Bernacchi.
The Blue Angels, while based in Pensacola, are currently training in California for the 2016 air show season and are scheduled to fly 65 demonstrations at 33 locations throughout North America in 2016, which is the Blue Angels’ 70th anniversary year. The mission of the Blue Angels is to showcase the pride and professionalism of the United States Navy and Marine Corps by inspiring a culture of excellence and service to country through flight demonstrations and community outreach.
Photo courtesy U.S. Navy Blue Angels for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.
February 8, 2016
County officials are monitoring the Rolling Hills Landfiill after a fire broke out Sunday morning.
Escambia County Waste Services, Environmental Code Enforcement, Public Safety and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection responded to a fire at the Rolling Hills Landfill located at 6990 Rolling Hills Road. County code enforcement and public safety staff noticed heavy smoke coming from the landfill area early Sunday morning. After investigating, the source of the fire was identified as a large mound of land clearing debris located in the southeast area of the property designated for land clearing debris disposal.
The property owner mobilized manpower and equipment and was able to cover the fire while county crews remained on standby. Escambia County Environmental Code Enforcement has posted a staff member to monitor the fire for24 hours while a plan for any further needed fire suppression is made with the guidance of FDEP. Escambia County continues to work with the landfill owners and FDEP to implement a closure plan for the construction and demolition disposal portion of the site.
The fire should not impact the levels of hydrogen sulfide gas, or H2S, in the Wedgewood Community. Escambia County’s Natural Resources Management Department has been working directly with local residents, and all data collected by the monitoring stations provides state and local officials with the tools necessary to evaluate the potential risk to public health and issue advisories as necessary.
February 8, 2016
The Tate High School wrestling team won the recent Tate Invitational tournament. Gulf Breeze placed second, and Niceville High came in third. For the Aggies, this was their third tournament win in the past month.
During the Tate Invitational, nine Aggie wrestlers won medals:
106: Jacob Cochran and Matthew Blalock
120: Scott Houston
126: Tanner Wood
138: Daniel Pigg
152: Logan Womack
170: Heath Herndon
195: Jacob Neales
220: Gaven McAnally
Submitted photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.
February 8, 2016
The Florida House unanimously approved a bill aimed at curbing recreational shooting in residential areas. The bill (SB 130), which also unanimously passed the Senate last week, is ready to go to Gov. Rick Scott. The measure, in part, seeks to prevent backyard gun ranges in neighborhoods. Rep. Julio Gonzalez, R-Venice, said Wednesday that such backyard ranges are a problem in his Southwest Florida district and that police have been in a “quandary” about how to handle them. Rep. Darryl Rouson, a St. Petersburg Democrat who helped sponsor the bill in the House, said the measure is important for safety in urban areas and other densely populated residential areas. The bill creates a first-degree misdemeanor for people who recreationally fire weapons in areas with densities of one home per acre or greater. The bill includes exemptions for such things as firing weapons to defend life or property and for accidental discharges.
by The News Service of Florida
February 7, 2016
Drivers will encounter traffic disruptions on the following state roads in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties this week as crews perform construction and maintenance activities.
I-10 Widening, Escambia County – Alternating east and westbound lane closures near U.S. 90 (Scenic Highway/Exit 17) from 7 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. the week of Feb. 8 as crews perform bridge deck work for the new Scenic Highway overpass. Drivers are reminded that the speed limit on I-10, between Davis Highway and Scenic Highway, is reduced to 60 mph.
State Road (S.R.) 4, Escambia County – Temporary road closure just east of the intersection of S.R. 95 (U.S. 29) in Century from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 9 and Wednesday, Feb. 10 as CSX repairs and replaces railroad ties. Eastbound traffic will utilize East Hecker Road, Jefferson Avenue. Westbound traffic will detour on Jefferson Avenue, East Hecker Road.
S.R. 289 (9th Avenue), Escambia County – Crews continue paving operations between the intersection of Bayou Boulevard and Creighton Road. Lane closures will be in effect from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. Motorists will also encounter intermittent and alternating daytime lane closures between Fairfield Drive and Cervantes Street as crews adjust manholes and valves.
U.S. 29, Escambia County – Intermittent and alternating lane closures within the town of Century and from Champion Drive north continue.
U.S. 90 (Scenic Highway) at the intersection of Scenic Highway Circle, Escambia County – Emergency repair work continues. New stormwater pipe will be installed beneath Scenic Highway. Traffic flaggers will be on site to assist with traffic control as construction vehicles enter and exit the work area. The repair work will take about two months to complete.
U.S. 90 Marquis Bayou Bridge Project, Santa Rosa County – Intermittent lane closures on U.S. 90, near the west end of the Marquis Bayou Bridge in Milton, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 5 as crews work on the shoulder of the roadway. In addition, drivers will encounter alternating lane closures on U.S. 90, near the east end of the Marquis Bayou Bridge, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 6 and Sunday, Feb.7 as crews perform widening and paving work.
U.S. 98, Santa Rosa County- Alternating lane closures between Central Parkway and the Gulf Breeze Zoo from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Sunday through Thursday beginning Sunday, Jan. 31. Crews will mill and pave crossovers and side streets through the end of February.
S.R. 281 (Avalon Boulevard), Santa Rosa County – Interment lane closures from north of I-10 to south of the Moors Oak subdivision from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Thursday, Feb. 11 as crews complete construction activities.
I-10 Widening, Santa Rosa County – Alternating lane closures on I-10 between the Escambia Bay Bridge and S.R. 281 (Avalon Boulevard/Exit 22) from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 7 through Thursday, Feb. 11 as crews perform construction activities. The Florida Department of Transportation reminds drivers that the speed limit on I-10, between the Escambia Bay Bridge and Avalon Boulevard, is reduced to 60 mph.
All activities are weather dependent and may be delayed or re-scheduled in the event of inclement weather. Motorists are reminded to use caution, especially at night, when traveling in a work zone and to watch for construction workers and equipment entering and exiting the roadway.