Deviney v. State, SC17-2231

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM.
Citation322 So.3d 563
Parties Randall T. DEVINEY, Appellant, v. STATE of Florida, Appellee.
Docket NumberNo. SC17-2231,SC17-2231
Decision Date06 May 2021

322 So.3d 563

Randall T. DEVINEY, Appellant,
v.
STATE of Florida, Appellee.

No. SC17-2231

Supreme Court of Florida.

May 6, 2021


Jessica J. Yeary, Public Defender, and Barbara J. Busharis, Assistant Public Defender, Second Judicial Circuit, Tallahassee, Florida, for Appellant

Ashley Moody, Attorney General, and Michael T. Kennett, Assistant Attorney General, Tallahassee, Florida, for Appellee

PER CURIAM.

Randall T. Deviney appeals the sentence of death imposed on him after a new penalty phase ordered by this Court in Deviney v. State , 213 So. 3d 794 (Fla. 2017). We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 3(b)(1), Fla. Const. For the reasons explained below, we affirm the sentence of death.

A. BACKGROUND

Deviney was convicted1 by a jury of the August 5, 2008, first-degree murder of Dolores Futrell at her home in Jacksonville, Florida. Deviney , 213 So. 3d at 798. The jury found that the murder was both premeditated and "committed during the commission of a felony, with burglary or attempted burglary and attempted sexual battery as the underlying felonies." Id. The trial court sentenced Deviney to death following an eight-to-four jury vote recommending a sentence of death during the penalty phase. Id. On direct appeal, we found no error in the guilt phase of trial and affirmed Deviney's conviction. Id. at 800. However, we remanded for a new penalty phase pursuant to Hurst v. State , 202 So. 3d 40 (Fla. 2016), receded from in part by State v. Poole , 297 So. 3d 487 (Fla. 2020). Deviney , 213 So. 3d at 799.

On October 11, 2017, the trial court conducted the new penalty phase. As the new penalty-phase jury did not hear the evidence that was presented during the guilt phase of Deviney's trial, the State presented virtually the same evidence and witness testimony introduced in the guilt phase during the new penalty proceedings. We previously described the guilt phase evidence as follows:

[A]t 10:01 p.m., a Jacksonville police dispatcher received an unverified 911 call from Futrell's residence. Along with another officer, Officer Milowicki of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office responded to the call.

....

Milowicki found Futrell lying on the carpet in front of her television. She recalled:

It was a petite, elderly female. She was cut ear-to-ear and the cut was so deep that it was hanging by just skin on the back of her neck. Her shirt was pulled over her torso exposing her torso. And her underwear, she just had underwear on and the underwear
322 So.3d 567
was sliced at the crotch area and pulled up by her hips. So she was nude from the waist down. And her legs had appeared to be posed in a sexual manner showing her genitalia.

Strangely, there was little blood inside the home. Milowicki observed a small table in the dining room with objects knocked over beside a cordless phone base. The phone was on the dining room table and, based on the call log, the police determined that it had been previously used to dial 911. The contents of a purse were emptied onto Futrell's couch; however, Futrell's wallet was across the room on an ironing board. Credit cards laid scattered beside the wallet, which contained a total of fifty-six cents. Behind the ironing board, near the back door, Milowicki saw a pair of bloody blue jeans.

While walking in the backyard, Milowicki heard "what sounded like a squeegee noise around [her] feet." Her flashlight confirmed that she was standing in a pool of blood that engulfed her shoes. From that vantage, in the center of the backyard, Milowicki noticed blood stains on and near a koi pond in the corner along the fence. Further, she noted that although the pond was lit by a white light, the water was "bright red." ...

The crime scene unit, including Detective Gray, arrived around midnight. While examining the backyard, Gray identified the blood on the ledge and side of the koi pond as transfer blood. ...

Inside the home, Gray examined Futrell's body .... Gray opined that, based on the evidence, Futrell was killed in the backyard, dragged inside her home, and—possibly—posed in an explicit position to resemble a sexual battery. ...

Dr. Giles, M.D., a forensic pathologist, conducted an autopsy on Futrell's body. Futrell was sixty-five inches tall (5’5’)[sic], 138 pounds, and sixty-five years old. Dr. Giles determined that the cause of death was hypovolemic shock with asphyxiation due to an incised wound of the neck, laryngeal transection: "In layman's terms, she received a large cut across her neck [that] went right through her voice-box and she bled and couldn't breathe." Futrell suffered both blunt- and sharp-force injuries. Based on his examination, Dr. Giles believed that "there definitely was a struggle involved in this death." The manner of death was determined as homicide.

On the left side of Futrell's head were various blunt-force injuries: contusions and abrasions around her eye, forehead, and temple, plus abrasions around the nose and mouth. On the right side of Futrell's head, near her mouth and eye, were different types of abrasions than those on the left. Dr. Giles opined that these particular abrasions occurred later in the course of events, either when Futrell was nearly or already dead, because they were yellow.

According to Dr. Giles, the large cut across Futrell's neck went from right to left. It sliced through Futrell's veins, but not her deeper arteries. However, it partially severed the jugular vein, the major vein on the right side of the neck, which meant that it could not snap shut and continued to bleed. Dr. Giles noted that the incision "completely separated" the upper and lower larynx between the vocal cords. Behind that, the esophagus was partially cut. Taking these together, Dr. Giles opined that Futrell was pulling blood into her lungs as she struggled to breathe. Dr. Giles testified that this sharp-force injury was a straight, clean cut, indicating that it was delivered with a non-serrated blade. When asked how long Futrell lived after her throat was
322 So.3d 568
cut, Dr. Giles testified that he could not give a definite answer. However, Futrell lived for only "a short time" due to her neck wound, anywhere from seconds to a few minutes.

Coupled with that injury, Dr. Giles found a major blunt-force injury to Futrell's neck. Specifically, Dr. Giles observed evidence of crushing blunt force applied to Futrell's upper neck, fracturing her hyoid bone. The larynx was fractured above the cut as well. Because these fractures stopped at the cut, and there was little hemorrhaging in the fractures, this injury likely occurred after Futrell's neck was cut. In Dr. Giles’ opinion, the crushing-type force was applied on both sides of Futrell's neck, consistent with strangulation or a choke hold. Dr. Giles testified that this injury occurred prior to Futrell's death; however, it was late in the process.

Aside from the fatal neck injuries, on Futrell's chest were various blunt- and sharp-force injuries. There were superficial incisions. Further, small pricks indicated where Futrell was poked with a sharp object. Some of the injuries on her chest were consistent with dragging a sharp object against it. One injury on her chest was a pattern injury, an abrasion with an unusual outline. Dr. Giles testified that this pattern was consistent with a serrated knife, but it could have been made by a broken knife blade. Dr. Giles could not definitively testify as to the sequencing of the injuries on Futrell's chest in relation to the fatal neck wound. However, he opined that the superficial cuts and pricks must have occurred at or about the same time due to bruising.

On Futrell's left arm were abrasions and sharp-force injuries. Various contusions and bruises on Futrell's hands and arms appeared to be defensive wounds. However, there was little to no blood on Futrell's hands. Futrell's lower back had a large abrasion, which indicated that she had been dragged. Another abrasion on her lower back suggested that Futrell had a garment on when the injury occurred.

When Dr. Giles conducted the autopsy, Futrell's shirt was still rolled up. There were cuts on the shirt, but when the shirt was rolled down one cut did not align with the injuries on her body; thus, Dr. Giles concluded that the particular injury occurred when Futrell's shirt was rolled up. A sexual battery kit was used to test Futrell's oral, vaginal, anal, and breast areas. There were no injuries to Futrell's sexual organs. This led Dr. Giles to the conclusion that no sexual activity occurred; however, he could not rule out the possibility that attempted sexual activity occurred. Finally, Dr. Giles took Futrell's fingernail clippings for DNA testing.

Evidence was sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) for DNA testing. ... Preliminary DNA testing of Futrell's right fingernail clippings matched Deviney. When the DNA profiles of Deviney and Futrell were analyzed, FDLE concluded that there was a 1 in 40 billion chance that anyone other than Deviney left the DNA sample.

These results were forwarded to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, which necessitated a confirmation sample. So, detectives brought Deviney to the police station to be questioned, tested, and subsequently arrested. In the days following his arrest, Deviney placed two calls to his father, Michael Deviney. The State introduced recordings of these calls into evidence. In one call, Deviney confessed to the murder, saying, "I lost it. It wasn't me. It was another person inside
...

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3 practice notes
  • Seadler v. Marina Bay Resort Condo. Ass'n, 1D19-0850
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • June 29, 2022
    ..."peremptory challenges are not themselves constitutionally guaranteed at either the state or federal level"); Deviney v. State, 322 So.3d 563, 584 (Fla. 2021) (Lawson, J., concurring in part) ("Additionally, in Florida, the use of peremptory challenges in criminal trials is a......
  • Wright v. State, 3D18-2430
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • December 1, 2021
    ...a specific juror that he or she would have excused if possible.”) (internal quotations and citation omitted). But see Deviney v. State, 322 So.3d 563, 578-88 (Lawson, J., concurring in part and concurring in result) (proposing that Florida courts should adopt the harmless error standard in ......
  • Wright v. State, 3D18-2430
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • December 1, 2021
    ...juror that he or she would have excused if possible.") (internal quotations and citation omitted). But see Deviney v. State, 322 So. 3d 563, 578–88 (Lawson, J., concurring in part and concurring in result) (proposing that Florida courts should adopt the harmless error standard in revie......
3 cases
  • Seadler v. Marina Bay Resort Condo. Ass'n, 1D19-0850
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • June 29, 2022
    ..."peremptory challenges are not themselves constitutionally guaranteed at either the state or federal level"); Deviney v. State, 322 So.3d 563, 584 (Fla. 2021) (Lawson, J., concurring in part) ("Additionally, in Florida, the use of peremptory challenges in criminal trials is a......
  • Wright v. State, 3D18-2430
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • December 1, 2021
    ...a specific juror that he or she would have excused if possible.”) (internal quotations and citation omitted). But see Deviney v. State, 322 So.3d 563, 578-88 (Lawson, J., concurring in part and concurring in result) (proposing that Florida courts should adopt the harmless error standard in ......
  • Wright v. State, 3D18-2430
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • December 1, 2021
    ...juror that he or she would have excused if possible.") (internal quotations and citation omitted). But see Deviney v. State, 322 So. 3d 563, 578–88 (Lawson, J., concurring in part and concurring in result) (proposing that Florida courts should adopt the harmless error standard in revie......

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