Prosecutors will ask a jury to send a Broward man to death row. Florida law just made it easier

Clarck Paul was so intent on committing murder on Aug. 5, 2016, that he just couldn’t wait to get started.

On his way to kill Lamont Smalls in Lauderdale Lakes, Paul got into a road-rage incident with a man named Carlos Senluis, 25, of Deerfield Beach. “Without provocation,” according to a witness, Paul shot and killed Senluis before continuing on his mission to murder Smalls.

In late May, Paul, 36, was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of Senluis. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. He was also convicted of first-degree murder in the death of Smalls. For that, he may be the first killer sent to death row from Broward County under a law passed earlier this year regarding jury votes on death sentences.

The penalty phase in Paul’s trial is scheduled to begin Tuesday.

The new law makes it easier for prosecutors to secure death sentences against convicted murderers. Until this year, a judge could not sentence an inmate to death unless a jury unanimously recommended it, after unanimously finding aggravating circumstances outweighed mitigators raised by the defense.

Now the jury still needs to be unanimous in finding the aggravators were proved beyond a reasonable doubt, but they are no longer required to be unanimous in recommending death.

The distinction turns out to be significant. In the highly publicized penalty phase of the Parkland mass shooting trial in 2022, jurors were unanimous in finding prosecutors had proved aggravating factors against gunman Nikolas Cruz, but three of the 12 jurors refused to condemn him to death. Cruz is now serving 34 consecutive life sentences.

Today the same outcome would result in a death recommendation — only eight of 12 jurors need to agree.

For Paul, the finding of at least one aggravating factor is a foregone conclusion — the murder of Senluis on the way to the murder of Smalls has already been proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Prosecutors will likely try to seek others when arguments are presented in front of the same jury that convicted Paul in May.

According to police reports, Paul believed he was a suspect in the attempted murder of yet another victim, and Smalls, Paul thought, had either given information to the police or was planning to. In the end, Paul was never charged in the other man’s shooting. But he was charged with killing Smalls.

“If you’re snitching I’m going to kill you,” Paul allegedly said before shooting Smalls and making his escape.

About four hours later, police noticed Paul driving a silver Hyundai that matched the description provided by the survivor in the Senluis shooting. According to the report in Paul’s case file, police pursued the vehicle for several blocks before it crashed in a driveway on Northeast 14th Street in Pompano Beach.

Paul fled from the vehicle. Police found him a few houses away, along with the gun that was used in both shootings.

The penalty phase of Paul’s trial will be held before Broward Circuit Judge Martin Fein.

The Broward State Attorney’s Office and lawyers for Paul declined to comment on a pending death penalty case.

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