Bench Memos

Law & the Courts

This Day in Liberal Judicial Activism—October 9

Judge Rosemary Barkett.

1986—In Melbourne, Florida, George Porter, Jr., culminates his violent relationship with Evelyn Williams by invading her home at 5:30 in the morning and shooting her to death. Porter had been the live-in lover of Williams from 1985 until July 1986, when, after several violent incidents, he threatened to kill her and then left town. When he returned a couple months later, Williams had begun a new relationship. Porter told Williams’s mother that he had a gift for Williams, and he persisted in trying to see her. He tried to borrow, and then evidently stole, a gun from a friend and, a few days before murdering Williams, told another friend, “you’ll read it in the paper.” On October 8, he visited Williams, who then called the police in fear.

If Porter’s murder of Williams—well after their relationship had ended and when they were no longer sharing a household—doesn’t sound like a “lovers’ quarrel or domestic dispute” to you, then you’re not Rosemary Barkett. (Congratulations, by the way.) Dissenting from the Florida supreme court’s affirmance of the death sentence that Porter received, Barkett, joined by Justice Gerald Kogan, complains: “In almost every other case where a death sentence arose from a lovers’ quarrel or domestic dispute, this Court has found cause to reverse the death sentence, regardless of the number of aggravating circumstances found, the brutality involved, the level of premeditation, or the jury recommendation.”

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