Davis v. State

Citation859 So.2d 465
Decision Date11 September 2003
Docket NumberNo. SC00-313.,SC00-313.
PartiesAdam DAVIS, Appellant, v. STATE of Florida, Appellee.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida

Guillermo E. Gomez, Jr. of Gomez & Touger, P.A., Tampa, FL, for Appellant.

Charles J. Crist, Jr., Attorney General, and Carol M. Dittmar, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Tampa, FL, for Appellee.


We have on appeal the judgment and sentence of the trial court imposing a death sentence upon Adam Davis. We have jurisdiction. See Art. V, § 3(b)(1), Fla. Const. For the reasons that follow, we affirm both the conviction of first-degree murder and the sentence of death.


The evidence presented during Davis's trial revealed the following facts surrounding this case. Prior to June 26, 1998, Davis had been seeing Valessa Robinson, then fifteen years old, for about nine months. Valessa was a troubled teen who had repeatedly run away from home and lived with her mother, Vicki Robinson, who was divorced. In 1997, Ms. Robinson had Valessa evaluated pursuant to the Baker Act.

On June 26, 1998, Davis, then nineteen years old, spent the day running errands with Valessa, Ms. Robinson, and Davis's friend, Jon Whispel. Later that evening, Ms. Robinson had dinner at her house with a friend, Jim Englert. At approximately 11:20 p.m., Davis, Valessa, and Whispel arrived at Ms. Robinson's home. Upon entering, the trio went straight to Valessa's bedroom. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Englert decided to go home, and he inquired if Davis and Whispel needed a ride home. Davis and Whispel declined the offer. They subsequently left on their bicycles and went to Denny's Restaurant, located at Stall Road and Dale Mabry in Tampa. Valessa later snuck out of her house and met Davis and Whispel at Denny's.

Upon Valessa's arrival, the three left Denny's to acquire LSD. They consumed the acid, returned to Denny's, and pondered what they wanted to do next. As they sat at the table, Valessa stated that the three should kill her mother. Although Whispel at first thought Valessa was joking, Davis and Valessa began to discuss ways in which they could kill Ms. Robinson. Davis ultimately suggested that they inject Ms. Robinson with enough heroin to cause an overdose.

The three left Denny's and headed back to Ms. Robinson's house. When they arrived, they stayed outside for a while to ensure that they did not awaken Ms. Robinson. Whispel and Valessa then went inside the house and opened the garage door. Upon returning to the outside, they waited again to ensure Ms. Robinson did not awaken. Valessa then opened the keyless entry to her mother's van and retrieved the set of spare keys. Davis put the car into neutral, and Valessa and Whispel pushed the car out into the street so as not to awake Ms. Robinson.

Davis then drove the trio to a friend's house to purchase the heroin. While inside his friend's house, Davis told his friend that he was looking for enough heroin to kill someone and make it look like an accident. Although Davis was unable to obtain any heroin, he did purchase a syringe.

Davis, Whispel, and Valessa returned to Ms. Robinson's home and parked several houses down the street to avoid waking Ms. Robinson. Once inside the home, Davis suggested that Valessa get some bleach and a glass so that they could inject Ms. Robinson with bleach and an air bubble using the syringe he had purchased. Valessa complied. Davis then filled the syringe with bleach and air, grabbed his folding knife, and he and Valessa headed to Ms. Robinson's bedroom. A few minutes later, Davis and Valessa returned, stating that Ms. Robinson had awakened. Davis put the syringe and the bottle of bleach in Valessa's closet and put his knife on Valessa's dresser. Ms. Robinson knocked on the door and told Valessa to get her sleeping bag and come into her room. Davis handed Valessa her sleeping bag, and Davis followed Ms. Robinson into the hall.

Davis put Ms. Robinson into a "sleeper" hold, attempting to render her unconscious. He then asked for the syringe. Because Valessa did not know where Davis had put the syringe, Davis told Valessa to hold her mother down while he retrieved it. Davis then returned and injected Ms. Robinson with the bleach-filled syringe. While this was happening, Whispel testified that Ms. Robinson was fighting to get up and asking what they were doing to her. A few minutes later, Davis stated that the bleach was not working. At that time, Whispel brought Davis the knife and said "use this." Whispel then returned to Valessa's bedroom. When Davis and Valessa returned to Valessa's bedroom, Davis was holding the knife limply in his left hand, and Whispel noticed blood on Davis's hands and on the knife. Valessa did not appear to have blood on her hands.

Shortly thereafter, the three heard moaning from the kitchen, where the incident had occurred, and Davis commented that Ms. Robinson would not die. Davis then grabbed the knife and left the room. Davis later told Whispel that he stabbed Ms. Robinson two more times and tried to break her neck.

A few hours later, Davis, Whispel, and Valessa cleaned the kitchen with bleach and towels. Davis put Ms. Robinson into a trash can that he had retrieved from the garage. The three loaded Ms. Robinson's van with the towels, the trash can, shovels and a hoe, and drove to a wooded area near Ms. Robinson's home to bury Ms. Robinson. While digging the hole, however, they hit rough terrain, so they instead concealed the trash can with some foliage, planning to come back later.

The three eventually returned to Ms. Robinson's house and obtained Ms. Robinson's credit cards, cash, and ATM card because Valessa knew the personal identification number. Davis, Whispel, and Valessa spent the next three days in Ybor City, using Ms. Robinson's money to get tattoos and stay at motels. They also went to Home Depot and purchased twenty bags of concrete, a bucket, and a trash can, with the intention of dumping the body in a nearby canal.

During the time that the three were in Ybor City, Mr. Englert reported that Ms. Robinson was missing. Davis subsequently learned from a friend that he and Valessa were on the news, so the three decided to go to Phoenix, Arizona. Because they needed to leave quickly, they did not complete their plans with regard to Ms. Robinson's body.

Davis, Whispel, and Valessa remained on or near Interstate 10 during their trip and continued to use Ms. Robinson's ATM card. Upon being notified by the police that Ms. Robinson was missing, Ms. Robinson's credit union began to track the card's usage, as opposed to closing her account. The three were ultimately traced to near Pecos County, Texas, where, after a high-speed chase, they were apprehended. Valessa was taken to a juvenile detention center near Midland, Texas, and Whispel and Davis were taken to Fort Stockton.

Lieutenant John Marsicano and Detective James Iverson, who had been investigating the case in Hillsborough County, arrived in Texas early in the morning on July 3, 1998, the day after Davis, Whispel, and Valessa had been arrested. Because Valessa was being detained closer to the airport, the officers questioned her first. They then drove to Fort Stockton to question Whispel and Davis. In Fort Stockton, the officers first interviewed Whispel. Davis was subsequently questioned around 5:30 a.m. The officers spoke with Davis for approximately eight to ten minutes. The officers then administered Davis's Miranda warnings,1 obtained a signed written waiver of rights form, and had Davis draw a map indicating where Ms. Robinson's body could be found. At that time, the officers turned on their tape recorder and recorded a confession from Davis. During his confession, Davis described how the murder was planned and committed, including how he had stabbed Ms. Robinson. He also described their activities following Ms. Robinson's death.

A jury convicted Davis of first-degree murder, grand theft, and grand theft of an automobile. The trial court subsequently conducted the penalty phase of Davis's trial, during which both sides presented evidence. The jury recommended by a seven-to-five vote that Davis be sentenced to death. The trial court followed the jury's recommendation and imposed a death sentence, finding and weighing three aggravating factors,2 one statutory mitigating factor,3 and four nonstatutory mitigating factors.4 State v. Davis, No. 98-11873 (Fla. 13th Cir. Ct. order filed Dec. 17, 1999) (sentencing order).

Davis appeals his first-degree murder conviction and the trial court's sentence of death, raising nine issues.5


Davis argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress his confession given to Lieutenant Marsicano and Detective Iverson in Texas. During the initial ten-minute discussion with Detective Iverson and Lieutenant Marsicano, Davis stated that he killed Ms. Robinson. Upon hearing this statement, Detective Iverson read a Miranda warning to Davis. Davis then signed a written waiver of his Miranda rights, drew a map indicating where Ms. Robinson's body could be located, and gave a recorded confession. Davis argues that the confession that he gave after waiving his Miranda rights should be suppressed because he had already confessed to killing Ms. Robinson before he was issued a Miranda warning.

A trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress is clothed with a presumption of correctness with regard to the trial court's determination of historical facts. Appellate courts, however, independently review mixed questions of law and fact that ultimately determine constitutional issues arising in the context of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. Connor v. State, 803 So.2d 598, 608 (Fla.2001). We find that the trial court properly denied Davis's motion to suppress.

In Oregon v. Elstad, 470 U.S. 298, 310-11, 105 S.Ct. 1285, 84 L.Ed.2d 222 (1985), the United States Supreme Court held that a careful and thorough...

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