Florida sentencing judge decides whether convicted killer who won $100,000 in legal fees will go free

A judge who sentenced Thomas Artis to life in prison for the death of Florida State University freshman, Maribel Diaz (who was his victim in 2017), will now decide whether he’ll go free. The young man’s bid for freedom was made possible after jurors found him innocent on a host of counts including murder, rape, armed robbery, and sodomy.

Judge Ronald Cohen explained the significance of this case when he told Artis, “I can’t be in a position to say whether you’re not actually guilty,” before issuing a six-page ruling granting Artis a hearing after the public spent a $100,000 on his defense. Despite this, Artis is now sentenced to at least 20 years in prison (the original trial length of life), and could be given a parole.

“You seem to think that you can just have your cake and eat it too, that you can get the freedom you desire when you are exonerated or when there is a determination that your case should be moved because it’s just too weak and that’s why you’re going to be in prison forever,” Judge Cohen told Artis. Artis told Judge Cohen that he wants to work as a carpenter, so he can pay for school and his family’s bills.

The judge’s decision will be used as a precedent to determine the futures of other defendants, including Artis’ own sister. She was involved in a 2008 conviction which was also overturned. Her case was re-filed in August 2015, and this is expected to go before Judge Cohen in the future.

Keep reading for more of Scott Feinberg’s analysis on this case.

This article was originally published by Scott Feinberg for Awardsline.

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