Justin Barber was convicted in 2006 of murdering his 27 year old wife to collect on a $2.3 million life insurance policy. This case was the subject of intense media attention (see here, here). Mr. Barber continues to profess his innocence . . . and he’s still not willing to walk away from the insurance money.
In the linked-to opinion the 1st DCA upheld a trial court’s decision applying F.S. 732.802, Florida’s “slayer statute.” Mr. Barber argued that since his murder conviction was being appealed, Florida’s slayer statute shouldn’t apply. As I’ve written before, Florida’s slayer statute does NOT require a final murder conviction to apply (see here). That’s the same conclusion the 1st DCA came to in the linked-to opinion, based upon the following rationale:
On appeal, Appellant argues that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment because his conviction cannot be considered final before he has exhausted his appellate rights. This argument has previously been rejected. In Prudential Insurance Company of America, Inc. v. Baitinger, 452 So.2d 140, 141 (Fla. 3d DCA 1984), the insured’s husband, who was the primary beneficiary of a life insurance policy, was found guilty of the insured’s murder. The probate court entered an order directing the insurance company to pay the policy proceeds to the personal representatives of the insured’s estate. Id. The insurance company appealed the order arguing that the husband’s conviction could not be considered final due to a pending appeal. Id. at 142. The Third District Court of Appeal examined the legislative intent behind section 732.802 and determined that amendments to the statute demonstrated the Legislature’s intent to make it more difficult for a killer to receive a financial benefit for his wrongdoing. Id. at 142-43. It concluded that the term “final judgment of conviction” meant an adjudication of guilt by the trial court, and it affirmed the trial court’s order directing the insurance company to pay the proceeds to the personal representatives. Id. at 143. See also Cohen v. Cohen, 567 So.2d 1015, 1016 (Fla. 3d DCA 1990) (holding that irreparable harm would not occur to a primary beneficiary, even if her conviction was reversed on appeal, if the estate was distributed to the remaining beneficiaries because she would be able to seek money damages from those beneficiaries).