Barfield v. State, No. 53767

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM; ADKINS; SUNDBERG
Citation402 So.2d 377
Decision Date11 June 1981
Docket NumberNo. 53767
PartiesJohn William BARFIELD, Appellant, v. STATE of Florida, Appellee.

Page 377

402 So.2d 377
John William BARFIELD, Appellant,
v.
STATE of Florida, Appellee.
No. 53767.
Supreme Court of Florida.
June 11, 1981.
Rehearing Denied Sept. 8, 1981.

Page 378

W. Lacy Mahon, Jr. of Mahon, Mahon & Farley, Jacksonville, for appellant.

Jim Smith, Atty. Gen., and Charles A. Stampelos, Asst. Atty. Gen., Tallahassee, for appellee.

PER CURIAM.

Appellant, John Barfield, was convicted of both first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. After a jury recommendation of life imprisonment, the trial judge imposed the death sentence for the murder conviction and a thirty-year sentence for the conspiracy charge. We have jurisdiction. Art. V, § 3(b)(1), Fla.Const

Page 379

. We affirm both convictions and the thirty-year conspiracy sentence, but reduce the death sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for twenty-five years in accordance with the jury's recommendation.

This was a murder for hire in which appellant was the middleman who procured individuals to commit a murder from which he was to share in the proceeds of a $400,000 insurance policy on the victim's life. The primary evidence for the state was the testimony of one of two men who participated in the actual killing and a confession made by appellant to his cell mate. This evidence was supplemented by the testimony of two of appellant's former employees who were initially charged in the conspiracy count and certain admissions made by appellant at his initial arrest. Appellant testified in his own defense.

Appellant was charged in this cause with conspiracy to commit the murder of Forrest J. Harris, Jr., in 1976, and the first-degree murder of Harris on April 23, 1977. The relevant facts, as established in the record, are as follows. Ron Garelick, a general life insurance agent and the victim's business associate, obtained a $400,000 insurance policy on Harris' life, naming as beneficiary a jointly-owned Garelick-Harris corporation. Garelick knew appellant as a business acquaintance and solicited his help in obtaining individuals to kill Harris for the insurance money. Garelick offered appellant $125,000 from the insurance proceeds as compensation for arranging the murder. Appellant actually received no funds from Garelick.

In April of 1976, appellant contacted Gerry Sapp and Huey Palmer, two of his former employees, and offered them $10,000 and $25,000, respectively, to kill Harris. They each testified that they refused this offer. A year later, in April of 1977, at a meeting with Ernest Downs, Larry Johnson, and Sapp, appellant offered Downs $5,000 to kill Harris. After Downs accepted, appellant identified the victim's automobile and apartment, and suggested an appropriate location for the killing. Downs enlisted Johnson's assistance to accomplish the murder. At Downs' request, Johnson phoned Harris, identified himself as a party from whom Harris expected a call, and arranged a meeting under the pretense of discussing the importation of drugs. Downs picked Harris up at the predesignated spot and drove to a remote dirt-road location where he had deposited Johnson earlier. As Harris exited the vehicle and approached Johnson, Downs shot Harris four times with an automatic pistol. After both men dragged the body into the bushes, Downs fired another shot into it to make sure that Harris was dead. The body was not discovered until months later, on August 2, 1977, when Johnson, who had been promised immunity, directed the Duval County Sheriff's Department to the skeletal remains. Also on that date, apparently coincidentally, Garelick met with claims representatives in Houston, Texas, concerning the $400,000 life insurance policy. He settled the claim for $35,000. Shortly thereafter, on August 5, Garelick died of a heart attack.

Also on August 5, the sheriff's department took appellant into custody. An officer read him his Miranda rights, but appellant refused to sign the waiver-of-rights form and stated that he would like an attorney. The officer in charge responded, "We will obtain an attorney for you. Is there anything further you want to say?" The officer testified that at this point appellant turned the rights form over and drew a diagram containing six "X's" in which he identified one "X" as the victim, two others as the men who did the killing, and, from the remaining group of three, one "X" as himself and one as the "big man."

While awaiting trial, appellant was placed in a cellblock with another prisoner who was being held for larceny and forgery and was under investigation for a Louisiana murder. Appellant told the cell mate that he had arranged for Harris' murder and that he had worked on it for over a year.

The cell mate later approached authorities with this information and offered to solicit further incriminating statements

Page 380

from the appellant. Subsequent attempts using a concealed electronic recording device were not successful. At the hearing to suppress the statements, the testimony revealed that the authorities made no contact with the cell mate before he approached them with appellant's inculpatory remarks. The trial court suppressed all conversations after that initial contact with the police.

The state failed to list the cell mate as a witness on its supplemental witness lists until January 11, 1978, although it had known of the cell mate's existence since the preceding October. Appellant, however, had listed the cell mate as a defense witness on January 5, 1978, and deposed him on January 11.

In testifying in his own behalf, appellant acknowledged the 1976 meeting with Sapp and Palmer and alleged that the three went to Harris' apartment complex with the intention of killing Harris. Appellant stated that he remained in the car and waited for about forty minutes when Sapp and Palmer returned, saying that there were too many people around to commit the murder at that time. Appellant denied that he made any arrangements with Downs, but acknowledged that Downs did contact him at...

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30 practice notes
  • Johnson v. Singletary, No. 89-3195
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • July 25, 1991
    ...judge may not override the jury's life recommendation if there is any reasonable basis in fact to support it, Barfield v. State, 402 So.2d 377, Page 1195 382 (Fla.1981). 17 In the present case, the jury recommended life imprisonment for the petitioner. One month later, the trial judge held ......
  • Herzog v. State, No. 61513
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • September 22, 1983
    ...convincing that virtually no reasonable person could differ." Tedder v. State, 322 So.2d 908, 910 (Fla.1975); see also Barfield v. State, 402 So.2d 377 (Fla.1981). We have reviewed the series of cases where trial courts have overruled the jury recommendations and been affirmed on appeal. Se......
  • Shere v. Moore, No. SC00-1960.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • September 12, 2002
    ...415 So.2d 719 (Fla.1982); Miller v. State, 415 So.2d 1262 (Fla.1982); Tafero v. State, 403 So.2d 355 (Fla.1981); Barfield v. State, 402 So.2d 377 (Fla.1981); Gafford v. State, 387 So.2d 333 (Fla.1980); Downs v. State, 386 So.2d 788 (Fla.1980); Malloy v. State, 382 So.2d 1190 (Fla.1979); Smi......
  • Johnson v. Dugger, No. 89-3195
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • August 21, 1990
    ...102 L.Ed.2d 361 (1988); Hawkins v. State, 436 So.2d 44, 47 (Fla.1983); Webb v. State, 433 So.2d 496, 499 (Fla.1983); Barfield v. State, 402 So.2d 377, 382 (Fla.1981); Jacobs v. State, 396 So.2d 713, 717 (Fla.1981); Brown v. State, 367 So.2d 616, 625 (Fla.1979); Provence v. State, 337 So.2d ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
30 cases
  • Johnson v. Singletary, No. 89-3195
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • July 25, 1991
    ...judge may not override the jury's life recommendation if there is any reasonable basis in fact to support it, Barfield v. State, 402 So.2d 377, Page 1195 382 (Fla.1981). 17 In the present case, the jury recommended life imprisonment for the petitioner. One month later, the trial judge held ......
  • Herzog v. State, No. 61513
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • September 22, 1983
    ...convincing that virtually no reasonable person could differ." Tedder v. State, 322 So.2d 908, 910 (Fla.1975); see also Barfield v. State, 402 So.2d 377 (Fla.1981). We have reviewed the series of cases where trial courts have overruled the jury recommendations and been affirmed on appeal. Se......
  • Shere v. Moore, No. SC00-1960.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • September 12, 2002
    ...415 So.2d 719 (Fla.1982); Miller v. State, 415 So.2d 1262 (Fla.1982); Tafero v. State, 403 So.2d 355 (Fla.1981); Barfield v. State, 402 So.2d 377 (Fla.1981); Gafford v. State, 387 So.2d 333 (Fla.1980); Downs v. State, 386 So.2d 788 (Fla.1980); Malloy v. State, 382 So.2d 1190 (Fla.1979); Smi......
  • Johnson v. Dugger, No. 89-3195
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • August 21, 1990
    ...102 L.Ed.2d 361 (1988); Hawkins v. State, 436 So.2d 44, 47 (Fla.1983); Webb v. State, 433 So.2d 496, 499 (Fla.1983); Barfield v. State, 402 So.2d 377, 382 (Fla.1981); Jacobs v. State, 396 So.2d 713, 717 (Fla.1981); Brown v. State, 367 So.2d 616, 625 (Fla.1979); Provence v. State, 337 So.2d ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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