Prosecutors in Brevard County announced that they would not seek to re-impose the death sentence on 40-year-old Justin Heyne for the triple murders of Benjamin Hamilton, 26, Sara Buckoski, 24, and Ivory Hamilton 5, on March 30, 2006.
Heyne was placed on trial and convicted on three counts of Premeditated First-Degree Murder.
After penalty phase presentations, the jury recommended life imprisonment for the murder of Benjamin Hamilton, and the death penalty for the murder of Sarah Buckoski by a vote of eight to four, and the death penalty for the murder of Ivory Hamilton by a vote of ten to two.
Judge O.H. Eaton followed the jury’s recommendation of death for the murder of Ivory but sentenced Heyne to life imprisonment for the murders of Benjamin and Sarah on December 17, 2009.
In 2017, Heyne’s death sentence was converted to life in prison after a ruling by the Florida Supreme Court on the legality of non-unanimous jury death recommendations.
In addition, changes to the death penalty statute by the Florida Legislature, required the State to re-litigate Heyne’s entire death penalty sentencing phase or allow the current sentence of life in prison to stand.
In a written statement State Attorney Phil Archer offered insight as to this decision.
“I firmly believe these brutal and senseless murders, especially that of Ivory Hamilton, a child who posed absolutely no threat to Heyne, still warrant seeking imposition of the death penalty,” said Archer.
“While the surviving family members were divided as to seeking the death penalty at the first trial, they are unified in asking that our office not proceed with a new sentencing hearing. I gave great weight to their expressed concerns over the uncertain outcome, combined with having to again witness graphic and disturbing evidence of their loved one’s final moments, in making this difficult decision.”
Heyne will be sentenced before Judge Tesha Ballou at the Titusville Historic Courthouse on a future date to be determined.