TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A state appeals court Wednesday tossed out a 300-year sentence for a man convicted of repeatedly sexually assaulting his adopted daughter -- but also asked the Florida Supreme Court to take up a key issue in the Washington County case.
A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal ordered resentencing for Carl Lewis Burns, who was convicted of 10 counts of sexual battery on his adopted daughter, who was an underage teen.
Wednesday’s decision was based on remarks by a circuit judge, who said Burns had “really shown no remorse and denied that any of this took place,” as the judge imposed the 300-year sentence.
The appeals court said a judge cannot base a sentencing decision on a defendant’s decision to maintain innocence.
“The trial judge’s statement here reflects that he violated the governing law by relying on appellant’s (Burns’) failure to express remorse and refusal to admit guilt in the face of compelling evidence of guilt,” said the seven-page ruling, written by Judge Susan Kelsey and joined by judges Clay Roberts and M. Kemmerly Thomas.
The appeals court, however, asked the Supreme Court to consider the case because of circumstances involving a pre-trial confession by Burns.
The ruling said Burns gave a “strikingly detailed” confession that included discussion of having sex with the teen for more than a year and not wearing condoms. At trial, however, Burns said the confession was false and maintained his innocence.
The appeals court wants the Supreme Court to decide whether the circuit judge could take into consideration the pre-trial confession when determining whether Burns showed a lack of remorse.
“May a sentencing court rely on a defendant’s lack of remorse after the defendant has given a … sworn confession to the crime and has obviously lied under oath at trial about his guilt?” the appeals court asked in a move known as certifying a question to the Supreme Court.