New sentencing ordered in Waffle House murders


Pointing to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that found Florida's death-penalty sentencing system unconstitutional, the state Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered resentencing for a man convicted of murdering two Waffle House employees in 2002 in Broward County.

Gerhard Hojan had received two death sentences for the slayings of Christina De La Rosa and Willy Absolu, who were shot after being forced into a restaurant freezer.

In Tuesday's decision, the state Supreme Court ordered a new sentencing hearing because of a January 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a case known as Hurst v. Florida.

That ruling said Florida law gave too much authority to judges, instead of juries, in sentencing defendants to death.

Tuesday's decision said "it must be clear beyond a reasonable doubt that a rational jury would have unanimously found all facts necessary to impose death and that death was the appropriate sentence" and pointed to the original 9-3 jury recommendation that Hojan be sentenced to death.

"Given the jury vote of nine to three to recommend a sentence of death, it is impossible for this (Supreme) Court to conclude that the Hurst error in this case was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt," the decision said.