Davis v. State, SC10–135.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM.
Citation121 So.3d 462
PartiesRalston DAVIS, Appellant, v. STATE of Florida, Appellee.
Docket NumberNo. SC10–135.,SC10–135.
Decision Date03 July 2013

121 So.3d 462

Ralston DAVIS, Appellant,
STATE of Florida, Appellee.

No. SC10–135.

Supreme Court of Florida.

July 3, 2013.

[121 So.3d 467]

Carey Haughwout, Public Defender, and Paul E. Petillo, Assistant Public Defender, West Palm Beach, FL, for Appellant.

Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, Florida, and Leslie T. Campbell, Assistant Attorney General, West Palm Beach, FL, for Appellee.


Ralston Davis was charged by indictment in Broward County with three counts of first-degree murder arising from the December 2, 2005 shooting deaths of Myosha Proby, Ravindra Basdeo, and Carlos Jones. Davis entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. The jury rejected Davis's insanity defense and convicted him of each count of first-degree murder. At the end of the penalty phase, the jury recommended life imprisonment for the murders of Basdeo and Jones, but recommended death for the murder of Proby by a vote of eight to four. The trial court followed the jury's recommendations, imposing two sentences of life imprisonment and one sentence of death.

Davis now appeals his convictions and sentences. We have jurisdiction. Seeart. V, § 3(b)(1), Fla. Const. For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we affirm the convictions for first-degree murder and sentences of life imprisonment, but find that the sentence of death is disproportionate. Accordingly, we vacate the death sentence and remand the case to the trial court for imposition of an additional sentence of life in prison.


The evidence presented at trial established that on the evening of Friday, December

[121 So.3d 468]

2, 2005, between 10:30 p.m. and 11:00 p.m., appellant Ralston Davis engaged in a violent rampage with an AR–15 semiautomatic assault rifle. According to the State's evidence, Davis first went to the home of his friend, Myosha Proby, and shot her to death. Davis then drove to a nearby gas station, where he killed Ravindra Basdeo and Carlos Jones, seemingly at random. The defense did not dispute that Davis committed the murders, but presented expert witnesses and other evidence to establish that at the time of the offenses, Davis was suffering from a brief psychotic disorder and was legally insane.

1. The State's Evidence

As background, the State presented the testimony of Randy Reddick, Jr. Reddick testified that he was a gun collector and that the rifle used by Davis originally belonged to him. Reddick stated that on November 30, 2005, he and Davis were both at a mutual friend's house when he mentioned to Davis that he was planning to sell the rifle. Davis asked to see the rifle, Reddick showed it to him, and Davis offered to buy it. Reddick said that when he sold Davis the rifle, Davis was “[h]is normal calm, cool, collected self.” Reddick testified that at that time he had known Davis for three years, that they had previously visited a shooting range together, that Davis was always a polite and respectful person, and that he saw no problem with selling him the rifle.

The first reported incident on the evening of December 2 occurred shortly after 10:30 p.m. Jerry Nicholson testified that he was working as a chef at a barbecue stand on the corner of Northwest 31st Street and Sunrise Boulevard in Ft. Lauderdale, when he saw a car stop at a green light in the middle of the intersection, blocking traffic. A man got out of the car, jumped on top of the car's hood, and began firing a gun into the air. The incident was reported in a call to 9–1–1 at 10:35 p.m. Nicholson could not identify the car or the shooter, but shell casings that were later recovered from the intersection were identified as having been fired from Davis's gun.

Shortly after the reported incident at the intersection, Davis arrived at the apartment of Myosha Proby. Hermione Harrell testified that she was at Proby's apartment in Lauderhill on the evening of December 2. Harrell said that she had gone out with Davis several months before, but that she had decided not to continue dating him and that she introduced Proby to Davis. Harrell testified that on December 2, she and Proby ate dinner and watched a movie. Harrell stated that she was getting ready to go out with friends later in the evening. Proby asked to use Harrell's phone, while Harrell took a shower. When Harrell got out of the shower, Proby looked upset. Proby said that she had called Davis and that he sounded irate about something. Proby called Davis back. When Davis answered, Harrell could hear him yelling through the phone and heard him say the words, “come out.” Proby told Harrell, “[H]e's going to come kill me.” Harrell responded that Proby should call the police. Harrell also tried to call Davis's phone again. When Davis did not answer, Harrell sent him a text message that said, “Sorry for disturbing you, this is your homegirl Tish, call me when you get this message.” Harrell testified that Davis knocked on the door of the apartment several minutes later and that Proby let him in.

Jason Rolle testified that he was walking up the stairs to his cousin's second floor apartment when he saw Davis park his car in front of the apartment building. Davis left the car door open with the ignition running, and music was blaring loudly from the car. Rolle testified that Davis

[121 So.3d 469]

began walking up the stairs behind him. Davis was carrying a gun, was bleeding from his mouth and nose, and looked as if he had just been in a fight. Rolle stated that Davis “had a serious face, like he was in the Army or something” and that Davis looked “pissed off.” Davis walked past Rolle at the top of the stairs and banged his fist on the door of an apartment located across the hall from the apartment of Rolle's cousin. When Rolle saw Davis cock the gun, Rolle walked back down the stairs, called his cousin, and told him not to open his apartment door. Rolle heard gunshots soon after.

Harrell testified that when Proby let Davis into the apartment, he began yelling, “You set me up, you set me up.” Harrell recalled Proby saying, “That wasn't my brother,” and that Davis responded, “I know.” However, Davis continued yelling, “You set me up, you set me up.” Harrell said that Davis had a slight stagger, seemed unsteady on his feet, had bloodshot eyes, and that he appeared to be “on something.” Harrell said she had “never seen him like that.” When Davis entered the apartment, he went directly to Proby and paid no attention to Harrell. After repeatedly telling Proby, “I know it's not your brother,” Davis told Proby to “Get the ‘F’ down.” Harrell testified that Proby got on her knees with her back to Davis, folded her arms, and that Davis “just started shooting her.” Davis walked around the coffee table and continued shooting Proby, then stood on top of the coffee table while continuing to fire down at her. Harrell testified that she ran, opened a sliding glass door which led onto the balcony, jumped to the ground from the second floor and ran into a wall, fracturing her ribs, wrist, and ankle. Harrell hid in a laundry room until she heard emergency sirens.

After leaving Proby's apartment, Davis drove back toward the intersection of Northwest 31st Street and Sunrise Boulevard. Jerry Nicholson testified that twenty or thirty minutes after observing Davis fire into the air at that intersection, a car pulled into the parking lot of the Exxon gas station where Nicholson's barbecue stand was located. Witnesses testified that at that time, several dozen people were standing at or around the barbecue stand. Nicholson saw Davis get out of his car with a rifle. Farrah Cyprien, Nicholson's sister, saw Davis tapping on the window of another car, and heard him say to the driver, “You don't know me, you don't know me.” Christian Gaines and Ebony Deadwyler were also in the parking lot of the Exxon station. Gaines observed a silver Chevy Lumina pull into the parking lot, playing music loudly. Gaines saw Davis get out of the silver car and walk to another car nearby. Gaines heard what sounded like an argument, followed by a muffled pop sound. Deadwyler had a clearer view of the events. She saw Davis pull into the gas station, jump out of his car and walk up to another car. Deadwyler testified, “I heard him yelling and cursing, and he just shot the guy.” The victim was later identified as Ravindra Basdeo.

John Diggs was also sitting in his car in the parking lot of the Exxon station, and observed Basdeo's shooting. Diggs said that everyone in the parking lot scattered, while he tried to lean his seat back so that Davis would not see him. However, Davis noticed Diggs and started walking toward Diggs' car. According to Diggs, Davis said something indicating that Basdeo had done something to offend him. At that point, another man, Carlos Jones, walked out of the gas station. Diggs saw Davis grab Jones, putting his arm around Jones's neck and shoulder. Davis then told Jones, “Get on the ground or I'm going to kill you.” Jones got on his knees

[121 So.3d 470]

and Davis immediately shot him. Davis returned to his car and drove out of the gas station. Gaines and Deadwyler also observed the second shooting. They said that Davis drove out of the gas station just as the police were driving in.

Detective Kerri Hagerty testified that she was on road patrol with her partner, Detective Jeffrey Jenkins, when they received a dispatch at 10:51 p.m. reporting that a black male in a Chevy Lumina was waving an assault rifle out of his car window. As they approached the intersection of 31st and Sunrise, they saw Davis leaning out of the window of the silver Lumina. They pursued the Lumina until it turned into the parking lot of a strip mall. Davis got out of the Lumina and the officers got out of their car. Jenkins observed that Davis was bleeding from the mouth. Hagerty testified that Davis did not appear to be holding a gun when he got out of the car, but that she and Detective Jenkins drew their guns and ordered...

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