Peter Avsenew has been on death row before. On Dec. 5, he will learn whether he is going back.
Avsenew, 38, was convicted last year of the 2010 murders of Stephen Adams and Kevin Powell, a Wilton Manors couple who took him into their home during the holiday season. A second jury was empaneled earlier this month to decide his sentence.
Their 12-0 recommendation was death. Broward Circuit Judge Martin Fein is legally entitled to reject that recommendation and sentence Avsenew to life in prison, but such rulings are uncommon in Florida.
If Fein does sentence Avsenew to death, it’s guaranteed to touch off a lengthy appeals process. Avsenew has been through that, too. He was originally tried in 2017, convicted, and sentenced to death after a jury’s unanimous recommendation. But in early 2022, the Florida Supreme Court reluctantly granted him a new trial, finding that his due process rights were violated.
His second trial also saw some irregularities. Avsenew was tried and convicted, and the same jury unanimously came back and recommended death. But before Fein could schedule sentencing, a juror came forward to reveal that several fellow jurors had watched a documentary about the case after they found him guilty but before they met to consider his sentence. Others admitted in a social media chat group that they had already made up their minds about their recommendation weeks before the penalty phase of his trial began.
Fein overturned the second death recommendation but allowed the guilty verdict to stand — the only allegations of jury misconduct concerned activity after the conviction.
That decision is likely to be appealed. After the jury’s recommendation was announced, Avsenew said he was looking forward to sentencing so that the appeals process could restart.
Family members of the victims will also be entitled to speak at the Dec. 5 hearing.
Rafael Olmeda can be reached at email@example.com or 954-356-4457.