Davis v. State

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Citation207 So.3d 142
Docket NumberNo. SC11–1122.,SC11–1122.
Parties Leon DAVIS, Jr., Appellant, v. STATE of Florida, Appellee.
Decision Date10 November 2016

207 So.3d 142

Leon DAVIS, Jr., Appellant,
STATE of Florida, Appellee.

No. SC11–1122.

Supreme Court of Florida.

Nov. 10, 2016.

207 So.3d 146

Howard L. Dimmig, II, Public Defender, and Steven L. Bolotin, Assistant Public Defender, Tenth Judicial Circuit, Bartow, FL, for Appellant.

Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, FL; and Marilyn Muir Beccue, Assistant Attorney General, Tampa, FL, for Appellee.


This case is before the Court on appeal from two judgments of conviction of first-degree murder and two sentences of death. We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 3(b)(1), Fla. Const. Leon Davis, Jr. (Davis), was convicted in Polk County of the murders of Yvonne Bustamante and Juanita Luciano. Davis now pursues the direct appeal of his convictions and sentences which are subject to automatic review by this Court. For the reasons explained below, we affirm the trial court's judgments of conviction and sentences of death. We first set forth the facts of this case and we then address Davis's claims on direct appeal. We conclude by evaluating

207 So.3d 147

the sufficiency of the evidence used to convict Davis, the proportionality of Davis's death sentences, and Davis's assertion that he is entitled to relief under Hurst v. Florida, –––U.S. ––––, 136 S.Ct. 616, 193 L.Ed.2d 504 (2016) (Hurst v. Florida ).


The Events at Headley Insurance

The evidence introduced at Davis's trial revealed the following. Around 3 p.m. on December 13, 2007, Davis entered the Lake Wales location of the Headley Insurance Agency (Headley) with the intent to commit robbery. Davis was armed with a loaded .357 magnum revolver and equipped with duct tape, a cigarette lighter, gloves, a gasoline can that contained gasoline, and a lunch cooler to conceal the revolver.

That afternoon, two Headley employees, Yvonne Bustamante (Bustamante) and Juanita Luciano (Luciano), were working. Bustamante, a licensed customer service representative, had worked at Headley for nine years. Luciano, a customer service representative, had worked at Headley for about three years. At the time, Luciano was twenty-four weeks pregnant. Upon entering the business, Davis locked the front door to prevent other customers from entering. He also placed duct tape over the lens of a security camera. Davis demanded money from the women, who initially refused to comply.

Davis then forced the women to open the company's safe and cash box, which contained a combined amount of about $900. During the course of the robbery, Davis bound the women with duct tape, poured gasoline on them, and set them on fire. At 3:35 p.m., one of the women activated the office's panic alarm, which sent a signal to the alarm company. The Lake Wales Police Department was contacted one minute later.

Victims Seek Help; Davis Shoots Bystander

Bustamante and Luciano escaped the burning building and ran in separate directions seeking help. Bustamante eventually ran to the parking lot of the Headley building, and Luciano ran to a nearby restaurant, Havana Nights. As Bustamante tried to escape, Davis shot her in her left hand.

By this time, concerned people who lived nearby had noticed the presence of smoke and walked to the area to investigate. These people, Fran Murray, Brandon Greisman, and Carlos Ortiz, were on the scene before emergency personnel arrived and became eyewitnesses to the aftermath of the robbery. Another eyewitness, Evelyn Anderson, was a Headley customer who arrived at Headley while the robbery was in progress. At trial, these eyewitnesses testified about the events at Headley, including their various encounters with Davis.

Fran Murray (formerly Fran Branch) testified that at the time of the robbery, she was sitting outside of her apartment and saw smoke nearby. She walked toward the smoke to investigate its source. Around the same time, her neighbors, including Greisman and Ortiz, also noticed the smoke. They all proceeded to walk toward the smoke to investigate.

As Murray approached the smoke, she realized that it was coming from the Headley building. She then saw Bustamante, who was yelling for help and whose body was burning. Murray observed that Bustamante was wriggling her wrists to free them of a thick gray tape, and that Bustamante's "skin was falling off of her." "And, just, she wasn't screaming, but she

207 So.3d 148

wasn't talking lightly either. She was just trying to get away."

As Greisman approached the building, he saw a woman whose body was burning, and he went to help her. At the same time, Greisman saw Davis walking towards them, and he originally thought that Davis was coming to help the distressed woman. Greisman made eye contact with Davis, who pulled a gun out of the cooler that he was carrying and pointed it at Greisman. Greisman tried to get away, but Davis shot him in the face, hitting him in the nose. The gunshot caused profuse bleeding and removed the tip of Greisman's nose.

Murray, who was still in the vicinity, heard popping sounds and saw Greisman fall to the ground and catch himself with his hands. She saw Davis walk away and place a gun into his lunch cooler. Murray then assisted Greisman, who was getting up from the ground.

Carlos Ortiz also heard the popping sounds as he approached the Headley building. As he got closer to the building, Greisman was walking back toward him with a bloody face. Greisman told Ortiz that he had been shot, and Ortiz saw Davis behind Greisman. Ortiz saw a part of the gun that Davis was carrying, and he saw Davis stick his hand into the lunch cooler. Ortiz made eye contact with Davis while trying to help Greisman as well as make sure that Davis was not following them. Greisman walked back to his home, and Ortiz and Murray assisted him while awaiting the arrival of emergency help.

Evelyn Anderson, a Headley customer, arrived at Headley to pay her insurance bill during the time that the robbery was taking place. Anderson parked her sport utility vehicle in front of Headley, and her teenage granddaughter and infant grandson remained inside the vehicle. When Anderson tried to open the front door of the Headley building, she discovered that it was locked. Anderson walked to the side of the building to try and determine why she was unable to enter the building during normal business hours. While walking, she noticed that smoke was coming out of the building. Anderson also heard popping sounds, and shortly thereafter, Davis walked out of the building and placed the cooler under his arm. Anderson asked Davis what was happening. Davis continued walking away but responded that there was a fire in the building. Davis then walked to his vehicle, a black Nissan Altima, that was parked at a vacant house nearby. Davis got inside of the vehicle and drove away.1

Shortly thereafter, Anderson came into contact with Bustamante. Anderson received a minor burn on her hand when she touched Bustamante, who was screaming for help and was severely burned. Bustamante walked towards Anderson's vehicle, and Anderson's granddaughter, who was seated in the front seat of the vehicle, ran away from the vehicle after seeing Bustamante's burning body. Bustamante walked to the open vehicle door and climbed inside the vehicle. Anderson encouraged Bustamante to get out of the vehicle because the paramedics were on the way. Bustamante got out of the vehicle and leaned on the hood.

By this time, Murray had finished attending to Greisman, and she returned to Headley to see if she could provide further help. Murray saw Bustamante leaning

207 So.3d 149

against Anderson's SUV. Murray described the scene as follows:

She [Bustamante] was um, screaming she was hot. And that her skin was rolling off of her body at this time. It was disgusting. You could smell the burnt skin and flesh. And she was screaming she was really, really hot and she was thirsty. And so I ran across the street at that time to Havana Nights, which was a restaurant, a Cuban restaurant, across the street of Headley, off of the other corner of Phillips, and got a cup of ice water in a to go cup.

Murray returned to Bustamante with the cup of water, and Bustamante sipped from the cup while awaiting the arrival of emergency personnel. Murray talked with Bustamante, and Murray described their conversation as follows:

I introduced myself as Fran and she introduced herself as Yvonne. We sat there talking a minute and she started to say—and I gave her water. And, um, she said that she didn't understand how anybody would rob her, she didn't have any money. And that her kids, please pray, I'm not going to make this Fran. And I told her that I would get to the hospital if I could to see her, if it was allowed and that I would keep her in my prayers, that with God everything was possible. She wanted to talk about her children. And I cannot remember clearly if I asked her who did it, or if she was just talking. And she said that it was a black gentleman, and that he should be on video tape. She then started crying again and said she loved her babies very much, and she

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