Bradley v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., Case No. 3:10-cv-1078-J-32JRK

CourtUnited States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
Decision Date12 March 2014
Docket NumberCase No. 3:10-cv-1078-J-32JRK
PartiesDONALD LEE BRADLEY, Petitioner, v. SEC'Y, FLA. DEP'T OF CORR., et al., Respondents.

DEP'T OF CORR., et al., Respondents.

Case No. 3:10-cv-1078-J-32JRK


Dated: March 12, 2014


I. Status

Petitioner Donald Lee Bradley is a death-sentenced inmate of the Florida penal system who is represented by counsel.1 He is proceeding in this action on a Petition with Leave to Amend for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody, Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Doc. #1) (hereinafter Petition).2 Petitioner challenges his 1998 state court (Clay County) judgment of conviction for first degree murder, burglary with a dangerous weapon and conspiracy to commit first degree murder.

The Petition raises the following grounds for relief: (1) Petitioner received ineffective assistance of trial counsel because counsel failed to present Petitioner's mental health

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records and evidence of Petitioner's chaotic childhood and dysfunctional family life during the penalty phase and also failed to properly investigate and use duct tape evidence during the guilt phase of trial; (2) the trial court erred in finding there was sufficient evidence to support the "cold, calculated and premeditated" (hereinafter CCP), "heinous, atrocious and cruel" (hereinafter HAC) and "murder for pecuniary gain" aggravating factors; (3) the trial court erred in finding there was sufficient evidence to support the charge of conspiracy to commit first degree murder; (4) the jury's limited consideration of mitigating circumstances violated Petitioner's rights under the United States Constitution to a reliable penalty hearing; and (5) Petitioner's sentence of death is disproportionate.

Respondents have responded to the Petition. See Response to Order to Show Cause Why a Writ of Habeas Corpus Should Not Be Granted (Doc. #7) (hereinafter Response).3 Petitioner has replied. See Petitioner's Reply to State's Response to Show Cause Why a Writ of Habeas Corpus Should Not Be Granted (Doc. #13) (hereinafter Reply). This case is now ripe for review.4

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II. Procedural History

In the opinion affirming Petitioner's judgment of conviction on direct appeal, the Florida Supreme Court summarized the trial proceedings as follows:


Bradley was convicted of murder, burglary, and conspiracy, all arising out of the murder of Jack Jones, which was committed at the request of the victim's wife, Linda Jones. Testimony at trial indicated that Mrs. Jones became distraught and incensed when she learned that Mr. Jones had a sexual affair with Carrie Davis, a teenage girl the Joneses had befriended and taken into their home. When unsuccessful in her numerous attempts to break up the affair, and, upon learning of Mr. Jones's intent to marry the girl, Mrs. Jones sought Bradley's assistance, first to physically intimidate the teenage girl and later to assault and batter Mr. Jones.
Bradley had a landscaping business and Mrs. Jones prepared his tax returns. On October 31, 1995, at the request of Mrs. Jones, Bradley took two of his employees, Brian McWhite and Patrick McWhite, teenage brothers, and Michael Clark, a sometime employee, and set out to retrieve a diamond ring Mr. Jones had given his teenage lover. Once they arrived at the teenager's apartment, however, she refused to open the door. Frustrated, Bradley directed the employees to break the teenager's car windows.
Mrs. Jones then decided to have Bradley assault Mr. Jones, and Bradley and Mrs. Jones agreed on a plan to make the assault look like a burglary of the Joneses' house. On November 7, 1995, at about 8 p.m., Bradley picked up the McWhite brothers and, while at the McWhite brothers' house, Bradley directed Patrick McWhite to pick up a large "zulu war stick" to use on Mr. Jones. The McWhite brothers both testified they agreed to help beat Mr. Jones for a hundred dollars each, but that Bradley never mentioned killing Jones. They also testified to numerous telephone conversations Bradley had with Mrs. Jones immediately before and after the home invasion.

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As planned, the McWhite brothers, gloved and ski-masked, entered the Joneses' home through the front door, while Bradley entered through a side door in order to obtain a gun Mrs. Jones told him was kept by Mr. Jones in the kitchen. Mr. and Mrs. Jones were watching television, and when Mr. Jones noticed the McWhite brothers, he immediately told them to get out of his home. When they refused, he started fighting with them.
Thereafter, as described by the McWhite brothers, Bradley administered a brutal and methodical beating to Mr. Jones with the "war stick" and the gun. During the beating, Bradley and one of the McWhite brothers duct-taped Mr. Jones's hands and feet and dragged him to another room, and Bradley continued the beating. At one point, Bradley attempted to shoot Mr. Jones in the head, but the gun malfunctioned. Patrick McWhite testified that Mr. Jones continually begged Bradley to stop the beating, while Brian testified that he too asked Bradley to stop, but Bradley refused. Meanwhile, Mrs. Jones calmly watched the whole episode, and Bradley later duct-taped her hands to make it look like she was a victim. The "burglars" also removed some items of personal property from the house. After they left the house Bradley told the McWhite brothers that he thought he killed Jones. Indeed, Jones died as a result of the beating.
After Mrs. Jones called 911 and reported the episode as a burglary and robbery, Brian McWhite's fingerprints were found, leading to the arrest of the McWhite brothers who later confessed to their participation in the events of that night. A neighbor of the Joneses also reported seeing Bradley's van leave the Joneses' home at the time of the alleged burglary. Bradley later admitted that he had made phone calls to Mrs. Jones on the night of the murder but only about picking up some tax documents from under Mrs. Jones's front door and that he went to the Joneses' home, but left immediately when he did not find the tax documents.
Janice Cole, a long-time friend of Mrs. Jones, testified that a few days before the murder, Mrs. Jones had told her of her desire to take a gun and kill her husband and that she, not some other woman, was entitled to the proceeds of Mr. Jones's life insurance policies worth some $500,000. Brian McWhite

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also testified that Bradley burned the clothing and the "war stick" involved in Jones's beating, and Bradley told him that he was expecting a payoff of between $100,000 to $200,000 from Mrs. Jones after she received the life insurance proceeds.
The McWhite brothers, Bradley, and Mrs. Jones were all charged with the murder. Mrs. Jones was tried, convicted, and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder. The McWhite brothers entered into a plea arrangement whereby they received ten-year sentences upon guilty pleas to third-degree murder. The plea agreement also required their testimonies in the trials of Mrs. Jones and Bradley. Bradley was convicted of first-degree murder, burglary, and conspiracy to commit murder.


At the sentencing phase proceeding, the State presented one witness, and the defense presented fourteen.FN2 For the State, Patrick McWhite testified that Mr. Jones was alive throughout the beating and continuously begged Bradley to stop.
FN2. The witnesses presented by Bradley included Detective Waugh, Donald Lee Bradley, Sr., Julie J. Witherell (Bradley's mother), Valerie Bradley (Bradley's wife), Cynthia Lee Bradley (Bradley's sister), Cathy M. Robbins (Bradley's sister), Pamela J. Bradley (Bradley's sister), Arthur J. Kurtz (a former employer), Elizabeth Smith (a former business acquaintance), Katisha Gussman (Bradley's niece), Mark Angelo (a business acquaintance and general contractor), Eli F. Robbins (Bradley's ex-brother-in-law), Harvey G. Sowers (a fellow church member), and Dean Lohse (Bradley's orthopedic surgeon).
The trial judge told the jury of the convictions and sentences of Mrs. Jones and the McWhite brothers. The jury was also told of Mrs. Jones's convictions for two other charges of soliciting others to kill her husband. A police detective testified extensively about Mrs. Jones's solicitations of two other men to kill her husband, including proposing a fake burglary plan for the murder that was almost identical to the fake burglary carried out by Bradley during which he killed Mr. Jones. During

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one of these solicitations Mrs. Jones asked for a silencer for a gun so she could kill herself and her husband's girlfriend. In another, she proposed that the solicited killer kill her husband and the girlfriend.
The defense presented evidence that Bradley came from a very dysfunctional family and was subjected to extensive emotional and physical abuse. The testimony established that Bradley's father was constantly cheating on his wife with the next-door neighbor, Nancy (no last name provided). As a result, Mr. and Mrs. Bradley were constantly fighting as Bradley and his siblings routinely witnessed their father slapping their mother during these confrontations. Unable to deal with the father's infidelity, the mother eventually left the house and moved into an apartment. Nancy then moved in with the father and the children.
The testimony further revealed that once Nancy moved in, Bradley and his siblings experienced nothing but sheer misery

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