Bright v. State

Decision Date02 April 2020
Docket NumberNo. SC17-2244,SC17-2244
Parties Raymond BRIGHT, Appellant, v. STATE of Florida, Appellee.
CourtFlorida Supreme Court

Andy Thomas, Public Defender, and A. Victoria Wiggins, Assistant Public Defender, Second Judicial Circuit, Tallahassee, Florida, for Appellant

Ashley Moody, Attorney General, and Lisa A. Hopkins, Assistant Attorney General, Tallahassee, Florida, for Appellee

PER CURIAM.

In 2009, Raymond Bright was convicted of the first-degree murders of Derrick King and Randall Brown and sentenced to death for each murder. This Court affirmed the convictions and sentences on direct appeal. Bright v. State (Bright I) , 90 So. 3d 249, 265 (Fla. 2012). In subsequent postconviction proceedings, Bright was granted a new penalty phase proceeding on the basis that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance in investigating and presenting mitigating evidence. State v. Bright (Bright II) , 200 So. 3d 710, 736 (Fla. 2016). Bright now appeals from the second penalty phase at which a death sentence was imposed for each murder following jury verdicts unanimously recommending death. We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 3(b)(1), Fla. Const. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the sentences.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUNDTrial and Direct Appeal

This Court previously set forth the relevant facts in Bright I :

On February 18, 2008, Michael Majors went to the home of fifty-four-year-old defendant Raymond Bright in Jacksonville, Florida. Twenty-year-old Derrick King, sixteen-year-old Randall Brown, and Bright were in the house. At approximately 8 p.m., Majors and Brown both left the home.
Brown returned to his mother's home and, after receiving a phone call, borrowed his mother's rental vehicle and left her house between 9 and 9:30 p.m. At approximately 11 p.m., Brown spoke with his mother by phone and advised that he would be home shortly; however, he never returned. At around 8 a.m. the next morning, Majors attempted to call Brown on his cellular phone, but there was no answer. Majors called Brown's mother and was advised that Brown had not returned. Majors then went to Bright's house and, having no response to his knock at the door, Majors climbed into the house through an open window. Upon entering the family room, Majors discovered the bodies of King and Brown.
Derrick King was lying face down on the carpet next to a sofa, partially wrapped in a sleeping bag or comforter. The sofa was saturated with blood on one end, which was adjacent to where King's head rested on the floor. The wall behind the sofa and the ceiling above the sofa evidenced blood. An evidence technician testified during trial that the blood on the ceiling was cast-off blood, [n.1] and the pattern was consistent with someone being on the couch and swinging his arm back.
[N.1] Cast-off blood is defined as droplets of blood that are flung from a weapon so as to make a trail of blood where it lands.
Randall Brown was found seated sideways in a recliner with his head leaning up against a wall and a blanket covering his head. The wall against which Brown's body rested presented a pattern of blood that radiated from his head, and there was also blood on the ceiling. When crime scene technicians moved the recliner away from the wall, a pool of blood was discovered on the floor. Above Brown's head was a framed picture with one side of the frame broken away. That one side was indented, consistent with having been struck by something round, such as a hammer.
Outside the house, the crime scene technicians located a loaded nine-millimeter Smith & Wesson pistol, a loaded assault rifle, and a pair of mechanic's gloves. During a subsequent search of Bright's yard, technicians recovered a hammer that had been buried. DNA testing on the hammer revealed two separate DNA profiles, one of which was a major contributor and the other of which was a minor contributor. During trial, the parties stipulated that the DNA of the major contributor matched the known profile of Derrick King. Randall Brown could not be excluded as the minor contributor. The gloves did not test positive for blood. Further, no latent fingerprints of value were found on the hammer, the nine-millimeter handgun, the assault rifle, or their magazines or ammunition. No foreign DNA was detected on the fingernail clippings of either victim.
At 7:30 a.m. on the morning of February 19 (the day that the victims were discovered), Bright's ex-wife picked him up at a church near his home. The ex-wife testified that she and Bright had made plans to secure the admission of Bright to a United States Department of Veterans Affairs clinic for treatment of his cocaine addiction. She testified that they had agreed to meet at the church because she "was in fear of what was going on" at Bright's house. During the Spencer hearing, see Spencer v. State , 615 So. 2d 688 (Fla. 1993), the ex-wife testified that she and Bright had previously made multiple calls to law enforcement—including the narcotics division of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Department and Crime Stoppers—to report that Bright wanted certain individuals removed from his house because they had essentially taken over the house for the purpose of selling drugs. While one officer suggested that Bright accompany the police to the house and identify the persons who were allegedly dealing drugs, Bright and his ex-wife refused to agree to this proposal because they feared retaliation. [n.2]
[N.2] Bright's sister, Janice Jones, also testified during the Spencer hearing as to her efforts to remove individuals who were staying in Bright's house. When asked what their names were, she replied Lavelle and Derrick. During the guilt phase, Michael Majors testified that Bright rented a room to an individual named Lavelle Copeland, who was friends with Majors and King. Jones managed to convince Copeland to call her and, when he called, she informed him that she was coming to Jacksonville and would bring the police with her. Copeland responded that he would not leave until Bright paid the money owed to him. When Jones offered to pay the money so that Copeland would leave the house, he responded, "You need to stay out of this. You don't know what you're getting into. It's between me and your brother." Copeland was not at Bright's house on the night of the murders because he was in jail.
After the ex-wife met Bright at the church on the morning of February 19, she called a lawyer and arranged for Bright to speak with homicide detectives the next day. However, at 1:45 a.m. on February 20, law enforcement arrived at the home of the ex-wife and Bright was placed in custody. Subsequent to the arrest, the ex-wife disposed of Bright's bloody clothes because she did not want them in her house.
Bright made statements to separate individuals with regard to what allegedly occurred on the night of the murders. Prior to his arrest, Bright informed friend and former coworker Benjamin Lundy that he had "screwed up" and may have killed two people. Bright told Lundy that the murders occurred after a confrontation erupted when one of the victims accused Bright of stealing drugs. After his arrest, Bright also described the events to Mickey Graham, who was in jail at the same time with Bright on unrelated charges. According to Graham, Lavelle Copeland had moved in with Bright, and he and others were running a crack cocaine operation out of the house. [n.3] Bright was afraid of them and felt threatened because they possessed guns. Bright did not want them there and had called the police in an attempt to remove them from the premises.
[N.3] On a table in the home, an evidence technician found scales, money, and a "push rod," which is used to pack drugs into a pipe or a bong. However, no drugs were found in the house other than 4.6 grams of marijuana, which was discovered inside Derrick King's sneaker.
Bright told Graham that he went into the kitchen at 2 a.m. on February 19. King was on the sofa and Brown was in the recliner. Brown had a nine-millimeter handgun in his hand and started waving it around. King rose from the sofa and removed the gun from Brown's hand. Bright saw an opportunity and attempted to take the gun away from King. The men struggled and the gun discharged. [n.4] The gunshot startled King and caused him to release the handgun. Bright then pointed the gun at King and attempted to shoot him, but the gun misfired. Bright dropped the weapon and attempted to run out of the house, but he tripped and fell. He grabbed a hammer that was within reach, turned around, and commenced striking King, knocking him back toward the sofa where King had previously been lying down. When Bright turned around, he saw that Brown was about to pick up the handgun. Bright then began to strike Brown with the hammer. The next time Bright turned toward the sofa, he saw King reaching for an assault rifle. At that time, Bright again struck King with the hammer. When Bright stopped, he could still hear King and Brown breathing and gurgling, but then the room became silent. Bright described his actions to Graham as having "lost it."
[N.4] In the vicinity of King's body was a section of carpet that appeared to be stained with gunshot residue. Testing on the carpet was positive for gunshot residue, and a firearms expert testified that, based upon the location of the residue, a weapon had been fired within six inches of the carpet. From that stain, the evidence technicians traced a bullet trajectory and ultimately discovered a bullet lodged in the wall near the front door of the house. However, neither of the victims’ hands tested positive for gunshot residue. A firearms expert confirmed that the bullet lodged in the wall had been fired from the nine-millimeter handgun that had been discovered in the yard.

90 So. 3d at 252-54. The jury found Bright guilty of two counts of first-degree murder and ultimately recommended a sentence of death for the murders of King and Brown by a vote of eight to four. Id. at 256. After...

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6 cases
  • Wells v. State
    • United States
    • Florida Supreme Court
    • April 13, 2023
    ...is not substantiated by the actions of the defendant, or if the testimony supporting it conflicts with other evidence." Bright v. State, 299 So.3d 985, 1005 (Fla. 2020) (alteration in original) (quoting Oyola v. State, 99 So.3d 431, 445 (Fla. 2012)). This principle applies even when the def......
  • Bargo v. State
    • United States
    • Florida Supreme Court
    • June 24, 2021
    ...a defendant's actions during and after the crime has indicated that he was aware of the criminality of his conduct." Bright v. State , 299 So. 3d 985, 1006 (Fla. 2020) (quoting Ault v. State , 53 So. 3d 175, 188 (Fla. 2010) ), cert. denied , ––– U.S. ––––, 141 S. Ct. 1697, 209 L.Ed.2d 471 (......
  • Joseph v. State
    • United States
    • Florida Supreme Court
    • February 10, 2022
    ...right to remain silent. Rather, the State was referring to the defendant's burden to prove mitigating circumstances. Bright v. State , 299 So. 3d 985, 1000 (Fla. 2020) ("This Court has held that a mitigating circumstance exists where it is established by the greater weight of the evidence."......
  • Colley v. State
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    • Florida Supreme Court
    • November 25, 2020
    ...(Fla. 2004). Even expert evidence can be rejected if that evidence cannot be reconciled with other evidence in the case. Bright v. State , 299 So. 3d 985 (Fla. 2020).Here we find that competent, substantial evidence supports the trial court's rejection of Colley's two proposed impairment mi......
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