For the first time, Mary Rice entered a courtroom formally charged with murder.
As she found her seat to await her arraignment, her eyes darted around the courtroom looking for anyone familiar. But she didn’t find anyone, not even her attorney.
During the brief hearing, she didn’t say a word. Her attorney filed a written plea of not guilty. It’s the next step that could eventually lead to a trial and possibly if convicted, a death sentence.
“Progress is being made so that the citizens of Florida will once again have a valid, constitutional death penalty law,” says Florida State’s Attorney Bill Eddins. That law was struck down last year because it allowed a judge to impose the death penalty against the recommendation of the jury. A new law is almost ready for Governor Rick Scott’s signature.
“The law is more stringent and the requirements under which we can seek the death penalty are much greater now,” says Eddins. Under the old law, Eddins was not certain if the Rice case would qualify. Under the new law, that uncertainty continues. “One of the factors that we are required to consider was whether or not she was the lead person and it appears in this case, of course, that (Billy) Boyette was the leader in the matter. We also would evaluate whether she had a prior record of violence and it is my understanding that she does not.”
A final decision on whether Rice will face the death penalty in Florida is still weeks away.
There’s a status hearing on May 25th and jury selection set for June 5th.