Allen v. State, SC17-1623

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM.
Citation261 So.3d 1255
Parties Margaret A. ALLEN, Appellant, v. STATE of Florida, Appellee.
Docket NumberNo. SC17-1623,SC17-1623
Decision Date07 January 2019

261 So.3d 1255

Margaret A. ALLEN, Appellant,
STATE of Florida, Appellee.

No. SC17-1623

Supreme Court of Florida.

January 7, 2019



Margaret Allen, a prisoner under sentence of death, appeals an order denying her motion for postconviction relief filed under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.851. We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 3(b)(1), Fla. Const. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the circuit court's order denying Allen's motion for postconviction relief.


In 2010, Allen was convicted of the kidnapping and first-degree murder of Wenda Wright. Allen v. State , 137 So.3d 946, 953 (Fla. 2013). On direct appeal, we affirmed her convictions and sentences, including a sentence of death for the murder, and summarized the guilt-phase evidence as follows:

Johnny [Dublin, Wenda Wright's domestic partner], testified that on the day Wright went missing, Allen came to Dublin and Wright's house and whispered something into Wright's ear. In response, Wright and Allen left the house together. A little while later, Allen returned to Dublin's house and told Dublin that Wright stole about $ 2000 of Allen's money and Allen asked Dublin if she could search his house. Dublin obliged and Allen searched Dublin's house. Dublin testified that he noticed that Allen had scratches on her when she came back to his house. Dublin asked Allen where Wright was, and Allen responded that she was still at Allen's house. Dublin testified that the next day, Allen came back to his house and asked him where Wright was. Dublin testified that Quintin [Allen, a neighbor and friend of Allen] was with Allen. Quintin ... testified for the State ... that he was at Allen's house on the day of the murder when Allen noticed that her purse was missing. Allen left her house, ... returned ... with Wright and asked Quintin to come inside. Allen told Quintin that Wright must have stolen Allen's purse because Wright was the only person at Allen's house before the purse went missing. Allen and Quintin searched for the purse. Allen left the house again and told Quintin not to let Wright leave if she tried. At one point while Allen was gone, Wright tried to
261 So.3d 1265
leave; Quintin told Wright that Allen wanted her to stay, and Wright obliged.

Upon Allen's return, Quintin plaited Allen's hair. Quintin testified that at one point Wright started crying and begged Allen to let her go home. Wright attempted to leave Allen's house and Allen hit Wright on the head; Wright fell to the ground. Quintin testified that Allen had a gun and told him that if he did not help her with Wright, she would shoot him, so Quintin held Wright down on the floor. While he held Wright down, Allen found chemicals including bleach, fingernail polish remover, rubbing alcohol and hair spritz and poured them all onto Wright's face. At one point, one of Allen's children walked into the room in which this was taking place, and Allen told the child to rip off a piece of duct tape for Allen. Allen attempted to put the duct tape over Wright's mouth, but because Wright's face was wet from the chemicals that were poured on her face, the duct tape would not stick to her skin. Allen retrieved belts from her closet and beat Wright with them. Quintin then tied Wright's feet together with one of the belts. Quintin testified that at that point Wright was not struggling. Allen then put one of the belts around Wright's neck and pulled. At one point, Wright said, "Please, stop. Please stop. I am going to piss myself." Wright's body started shaking and after about three minutes, Wright did not move. Allen then told Quintin to get some sheets to tie Wright's hands together in case Wright woke up.

Quintin left soon after the incident. Allen called Quintin throughout the night, but he did not answer her calls. The next day, Allen found Quintin at the barbershop. Quintin testified that Allen still had the gun. Quintin got into the truck that Allen was driving; James Martin [a friend of Allen] was also in the truck. Allen told Quintin that Wright was dead. Allen then told Quintin that he had to help her get rid of the body. Allen, Quintin, and Martin drove to Lowe's to buy plywood to help move Wright's body from inside the house into the truck. They also borrowed a dolly hand truck from a local shop to help move the body. Quintin testified that upon returning to Allen's house, Wright's body had been moved from where he had last seen her and had been wrapped in Allen's carpet. They were eventually able to get Wright's body into the truck. Then, all three took shovels from Allen's mother's tool shed and drove to an area off of the highway to dump Wright's body. Quintin and Martin dug a hole while Allen stood as a lookout. They placed Wright's body in the hole, covered the hole with debris, and took the carpet with them. They threw the carpet into a dumpster outside of a truck stop and picked up Allen's daughter from school. Quintin went to the police and turned himself in. Quintin also took the police to the place where Wright's body had been buried.

James Martin testified ... that on the day of the murder, he was at Allen's house helping her repair a car. Allen asked Martin to help her search for her purse, and Martin did. He testified that he left Allen's house around 10 p.m. to get a starter belt for the car. Martin finished repairing the car and asked Allen if she had any cocaine. She did not, so Martin left Allen's house, found cocaine, came back to Allen's house, and smoked it. Martin testified that when he got back from finding the cocaine, Wright was the only one at Allen's house. Martin testified that the timing of the events of the day was unclear because he had been high. Martin testified that he slept at Allen's house until the
261 So.3d 1266
morning and got a ride from Allen when she took her children to school. At that point, Allen told Martin that she needed help. Allen and Martin went back to Allen's house, and Martin saw Wright's body. Martin testified that Allen told him, "He must have hit her too hard." Martin testified that he noticed a bandana tied around Wright's hands. Allen told Martin that they had to bury Wright's body. Allen sent Martin to Allen's brother's house to borrow a truck. Martin testified that the truck was never found by police. Martin testified that the entire plan, including getting the plywood at Lowe's was Allen's idea. Martin testified that he was the only smoker of the group, and he dumped all of the ashtrays out of the car after they buried the body. When they got back to Allen's house, Quintin left, and Martin cleaned the nylon strap that had been used to secure the carpet around Wright's body. Martin also washed the truck but testified that he did not know what became of the vehicle. Martin was at Allen's house when the police came to Allen's house with a search warrant.


Denise Fitzgerald, a crime scene technician, testified that she exhumed Wright's body and located a cigarette butt in the vicinity. The State and defense stipulated that the DNA found on the cigarette butt was consistent with Martin's DNA. Dr. Sajid Qaiser, a forensic pathologist and chief medical examiner for Brevard County, testified that ... a body cannot bruise once dead and that Wright had bruising in the following places: upper and lower eye lid, front and back of her ear, left torso, all over the left side, trunk, right hand, thigh, knee, left eyebrow, forehead, upper arm and shoulder area. Additionally, Wright's chest, hands, torso, face, and lower lip had contusions. Wright's wrist showed signs of ligation, meaning her hands were tied. Wright's neck showed signs of ligation, meaning that she was either hung or something was tied tightly around her neck. Dr. Qaiser testified that his medical conclusion was that Wright's death was the result of homicidal violence, and strangulation and ligature were an important cause of death. Dr. Qaiser testified that Wright was morbidly obese, with an enlarged heart, which contributed to her death. He testified that it would take from four to six minutes of strangulation to die. He could not tell whether she was rendered unconscious during the beating.

Id. at 951-53. The record also shows that while the autopsy report concluded that cocaine intoxication was a cause of Wright's death, Dr. Qaiser testified that he did not agree with the conclusion.

After convicting Allen of kidnapping and first-degree murder, Allen's jury unanimously recommended a death sentence. The trial court followed the jury's recommendation, finding two aggravators1 and four nonstatutory mitigating circumstances.2 On appeal, this Court affirmed

261 So.3d 1267

the death sentence. Id. at 969. Allen's death sentence became final in 2014. Allen v. Florida , ––– U.S. ––––, 135 S.Ct. 362, 190 L.Ed.2d 260 (2014).

Thereafter, Allen timely filed her initial motion for postconviction relief under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.851, raising fourteen claims with subparts. Allen sought leave to amend her rule 3.851 motion to add a Hurst v. Florida claim and a Hurst v. State claim.3 The postconviction court accepted the amendments and held an evidentiary hearing on the fourteen claims.4 The trial court denied the motion

261 So.3d 1268

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4 cases
  • Hilton v. State, SC19-373
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • August 26, 2021
    ...are shown to be outside the broad range of reasonably competent performance under prevailing professional standards." Allen v. State , 261 So. 3d 1255, 1269 (Fla. 2019) (quoting Peterson v. State , 221 So. 3d 571, 583 (Fla. 2017) ). Accordingly, "strategic decisions do not constitute ineffe......
  • Sparre v. State, SC18-1192
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • December 19, 2019
    ...factor is whether a defendant can show that an expert was available at the time of trial to rebut the State's expert. Allen v. State , 261 So. 3d 1255, 1283 (Fla. 2019) (citations omitted) (quoting State v. Riechmann , 777 So. 2d 342, 354 (Fla. 2000) ).Here, competent, substantial evidence ......
  • Thompson v. State, SC18-1435
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • January 7, 2019
    ...261 So.3d 1255 (Mem)William Lee THOMPSON, Appellant,v.STATE of Florida, Appellee.No. SC18-1435Supreme Court of Florida.January 7, 2019Neal Dupree, Capital Collateral Regional Counsel, Marie-Louise Samuels Parmer, Special Assistant Capital Collateral Regional Counsel, and Brittney Nicole Lac......
  • State v. Bishop, No. 4D19-3443
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • July 15, 2020
    ...different,’ where ‘[a] reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome.’ " Allen v. State , 261 So. 3d 1255, 1269 (Fla. 2019) (alternation in original) (quoting Strickland , 466 U.S. at 694, 104 S.Ct. 2052 ).Here, Defendant's main contention in argu......
1 books & journal articles
  • Introduction
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Trial Objections
    • May 5, 2022
    ...; State did not mention collateral evidence during voir dire; and mentioned it only briefly during opening statement. Allen v. State , 261 So. 3d 1255 (Fla. 2019). Trial counsel’s failure to object or request a curative instruction when the prosecutor misstated during closing argument that,......

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