Fletcher v. State

Citation343 So.3d 55
Decision Date07 July 2022
Docket NumberSC20-1862
Parties Thomas H. FLETCHER, Appellant, v. STATE of Florida, Appellee.
CourtFlorida Supreme Court

343 So.3d 55

Thomas H. FLETCHER, Appellant,
STATE of Florida, Appellee.

No. SC20-1862

Supreme Court of Florida.

July 7, 2022

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, and Jennifer A. Davis, Assistant Attorney General, Miami, Florida, for Appellee


Thomas H. Fletcher appeals his judgment of conviction of first-degree murder and his sentence of death. We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 3(b)(1), Fla. Const. For the reasons below, we affirm Fletcher's conviction and sentence of death.

I. Background

In September 2018, while serving a life sentence for the 1994 first-degree murder of Milton Grossman, Fletcher strangled his cellmate Kenneth Davis to death in their cell at the Blackwater River Correctional Facility. Fletcher, who confessed to killing Davis to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) special agent and in letters he wrote to the trial court, was indicted for first-degree premeditated murder in March 2019. As explained in the trial court's sentencing order:

On August 29, 2019, [Fletcher] pled guilty to first-degree murder in open court, which the Court accepted. At the same time, [Fletcher] informed the Court of his decisions to waive a penalty phase jury, to not challenge the imposition of the death penalty, and to refuse to present mitigation, a position that he has consistently maintained throughout these proceedings. The Court found that [Fletcher]’s waivers were knowingly and voluntarily made and directed the Department of Corrections to prepare a comprehensive presentence investigation report (PSI) in accordance with Muhammad v. State , 782 So. 2d 343, 363-64 (Fla. 2001). After reviewing the PSI and other mitigating evidence submitted by the State and defense counsel, the Court appointed special counsel to represent the public interest in bringing forth all available mitigation for the Court's benefit ....

Following Fletcher's guilty plea, the case proceeded to a penalty phase. On June 18, 2020, the court confirmed Fletcher's waiver of a penalty-phase jury and his wish for his appointed counsel not to present evidence in mitigation. The State presented the testimony of several witnesses and introduced several exhibits in support of the following aggravators it sought to establish: (1) "capital felony was committed by a person previously convicted of a felony and under a sentence of imprisonment"; (2) Fletcher "was previously convicted of another capital felony"; (3) "capital

343 So.3d 57

felony was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel" (HAC); and (4) "capital felony was a homicide and was committed in a cold, calculated and premeditated manner without any pretense of moral or legal justification" (CCP).

Among the State's witnesses was the FDLE special agent who conducted the interview—published in court with no objection— during which Fletcher confessed, "I did kill Kenny Davis. I strangled him." The State also presented testimony from the pathologist, who performed Davis's autopsy, identified possible defensive wounds on several parts of Davis's body, and concluded that Davis's cause of death was manual asphyxiation.

The State's exhibits included three letters written by Fletcher addressed to various individuals at the Santa Rosa County Courthouse confessing to Davis's murder. These letters were received and read into the record without objection.

The special counsel, whom the trial court appointed, summarized the mitigation contained in the record...

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