Hunter v. State, No. SC06-1963.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Writing for the CourtPer Curiam
Citation8 So.3d 1052
PartiesJerone HUNTER, Appellant, v. STATE of Florida, Appellee.
Docket NumberNo. SC06-1963.
Decision Date25 September 2008
8 So.3d 1052
Jerone HUNTER, Appellant,
v.
STATE of Florida, Appellee.
No. SC06-1963.
Supreme Court of Florida.
September 25, 2008.
Rehearing Denied December 2, 2008.

[8 So.3d 1057]

Ryan Thomas Truskoski, of Ryan Thomas Truskoski, P.A., Orlando, Florida, for Appellant.

Bill McCollum, Attorney General, Tallahassee, Florida, and Kenneth S. Nunnelley, Assistant Attorney General, Daytona Beach, Florida, for Appellee.

PER CURIAM.


Jerone Hunter appeals his convictions and sentences of death for first-degree murder. We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 3(b)(1), Fla. Const. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
A. The Guilt Phase

On August 27, 2004, Hunter was charged in a fourteen-count superseding indictment relating to the murders of Erin Belanger, Roberto Gonzalez, Michelle Nathan, Anthony Vega, Jonathon Gleason, and Francisco Ayo-Roman. Hunter, with codefendants Troy Victorino and Michael Salas, went to trial on July 5, 2006. Codefendant Anthony Cannon previously pled guilty as charged.

The evidence at trial established the following. On the morning of August 6, 2004, a coworker of two of the occupants of a residence on Telford Lane in Deltona, Florida, discovered the victims' bodies. Belanger lived at the Telford residence with Ayo-Roman, Nathan, and Vega. Gonzalez and Gleason happened to be at the house the night of the murders. The six victims had been beaten to death with baseball bats and had sustained cuts to their throats, most of which were determined to have been inflicted postmortem. Belanger also sustained lacerations through her vagina up to the abdominal cavity of her body; the injuries were consistent with having been inflicted by a baseball bat. The medical examiner determined that some of the victims had defensive wounds. A dead Dachshund was also found in the house.

Following a call to 911, law enforcement officers responded to the scene. The front door had been kicked in, breaking a deadbolt lock and leaving a thirteen-inch shoe-print impression on the door. The victims were found throughout the house and blood was everywhere. A knife handle and knife blade were recovered at the scene, along with two playing cards with bloody shoe imprints, a bed sheet with footwear impressions, as well as a pay stub with a footwear impression.

Hunter, who at the time was eighteen years old and in twelfth grade, met codefendant Cannon two months before the murders. He knew codefendant Salas from high school. Hunter met codefendant Victorino during the end of June or beginning of July of 2004, and moved in with Victorino a few days later. Together Hunter and Victorino lived in three different residences, including a house that belonged

8 So.3d 1058

to victim Belanger's grandmother. No one had permission to stay at Belanger's grandmother's house, but Victorino testified that the owner's grandson had given him permission to stay there.

Approximately a week before the murders, Belanger contacted police concerning suspicious activity at her grandmother's residence. Victorino also reported to police that he had items stolen from the same house. He became angry when the police told him he would have to provide a list of the stolen property. Victorino told the police he would take care of the matter himself. Victorino also met with Belanger at her residence, seeking return of his property.

Brandon Graham, who was living with codefendants Cannon and Salas, met Hunter and Victorino when they went to Belanger's house on Telford Lane a few days before the murders so that Victorino could pick up his belongings. Victorino wanted them to fight the people at the residence. Hunter yelled for the occupants to come out and fight.

On the morning before the murders, Graham, Salas, and Cannon drove to the house where Hunter and Victorino were living. Victorino discussed a plan to beat everyone to death at the Telford residence, asking them if they "were down for it" and saying to Hunter, "I know you're down for it" because he had belongings stolen as well. All agreed. Victorino verbally described the layout of the Telford house and who would go where. Hunter asked if they should wear masks; Victorino said no because they would kill all of the occupants.

A witness testified that around midnight on August 5, 2004, she saw Hunter, Salas, Cannon, and Victorino near the murder scene.1 And Graham testified that the morning after the murders, he saw Victorino's belongings in the back of Cannon's SUV. On the day after the murders, Victorino was arrested on a probation violation.

In his statement to police, Hunter said that he had gone in Cannon's SUV to the house on Telford on late Saturday or early Sunday to get his belongings that had been taken from Belanger's grandmother's house. He had an aluminum baseball bat with him. Hunter said he entered the house through the front door and found Gleason in the recliner in the living room. Hunter screamed, "Where's my stuff," and when Gleason said, "I don't know," he hit him with the bat. Hunter hit Gleason because he thought he was lying. Gleason attempted to get up from the recliner and Hunter hit him again. Hunter said he hit Gleason more than three times but less than twelve. Hunter said he then went to look for his belongings. Hunter also indicated that he encountered victim Gonzalez in one of the bedrooms. He claimed he hit Gonzalez because Gonzalez had swung at him with a stick. After Gonzalez dropped his stick, Hunter continued to hit him, three to five more times. Hunter then continued looking for his belongings. Eventually, Hunter and his codefendants left in Cannon's SUV. Hunter, who wore a black shirt, black shorts, and blue and white Nike tennis shoes during the incident, stated that he washed his clothes afterwards.

Cannon's SUV was seized on August 7, 2004. Salas admitted to being at the Telford residence the night of the murder and stated that Cannon had driven them there. Salas described what he had done while in the house and said the bats had been discarded at a retention pond. Based

8 So.3d 1059

upon that information, law enforcement authorities recovered two bats from the pond and two bats from surrounding trees.

Salas testified about Hunter's involvement in the murders. Salas explained that before the men entered the house on Telford, Hunter called Salas and Cannon "bitches" because they did not want to take part in the plan. Hunter ran into the house after Victorino. Salas ran in next and saw Hunter swing his bat. Hunter said to Gleason, "I don't like you" and started hitting him. Hunter asked Salas if he had killed Gonzalez; Hunter called Salas a "pussy boy" when Salas said he was not killing anyone. Hunter then ran into the bedroom and began hitting Gonzalez in the face and head. Hunter hit Gonzalez between twenty and thirty times, saying he had to kill him. Salas left the house. When Hunter came out he described how he found Nathan hiding in one of the bedrooms and killed her when she pled for her life. Salas described Hunter as having a look of "ferule [sic] joy."

Pursuant to a search warrant, numerous items were taken from the house where Hunter and Victorino lived. Among the items taken was a pair of size thirteen boots, a pair of size ten and one-half Nike blue and white tennis shoes without shoe laces, and a pair of shoe laces. These shoes, the laces, and other physical evidence were admitted at trial linking Hunter, Salas, and Victorino to the murders.2

The jury returned its verdicts on July 25, 2006. It convicted Hunter of six counts of first-degree murder, three counts of abuse of a dead human body, and one count each of conspiracy to commit aggravated battery, murder, tampering with physical evidence, and armed burglary of a dwelling. The jury acquitted Hunter of

8 So.3d 1060

the two counts of abuse of a dead human body with a weapon (postmortem cutting of throats or stabbing) and one count of cruelty to an animal.

B. The Penalty Phase

During the penalty phase, the State presented victim impact statements from family members of each of the victims. Hunter presented both lay and expert testimony. Family members testified that Hunter had a twin who had died as an infant and that Hunter had a history of talking out loud as though he were talking to his deceased sibling.

Dr. Alan Berns, a psychiatrist, testified to Hunter's family's history of mental illness, including schizophrenia and depression. Dr. Berns thought it likely that Hunter was schizophrenic and that it was unlikely that Hunter was malingering. Dr. Berns testified that schizophrenia can cause impairment of impulse control and judgment as well as an increased risk for violence.

Dr. Eric Mings, a neuropsychologist, also presented mental health testimony. While he did not find Hunter legally insane, Dr. Mings explained that Hunter had difficulty expressing his answers. Hunter's full scale IQ score was 91. His profile was consistent with a person with a psychotic mental illness. Dr. Mings testified that Hunter was not functioning as a normal adult, and while he knew the difference between right and wrong, he was probably impaired in respect to conforming his conduct to the law. Dr. Mings also testified that Hunter reported hearing voices other than that of his deceased brother. During cross-examination, Dr. Mings acknowledged that it was two weeks before trial when Hunter reportedly started hearing other voices.

Dr. Ruben Gur, a psychologist with training in neuropsychology, also testified for the defense. Dr. Gur, having conducted "behavior imaging" through the use of a PET scan, concluded that Hunter had deficits in the left frontal temporal areas, which relate to memory and the ability to interpret the emotional relevance of information. Dr. Gur opined that Hunter was not malingering and that the pattern was similar to what is seen in individuals with schizophrenia. Dr. Gur concluded that Hunter had schizophreniform disorder, but...

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47 practice notes
  • Yacob v. State, No. SC11–2505.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • 27 Marzo 2014
    ...to prevent the imposition of “unusual” punishments contrary to article I, section 17 of the Florida Constitution.’ ” Hunter v. State, 8 So.3d 1052, 1073 (Fla.2008) (quoting Simmons v. State, 934 So.2d 1100, 1122 (Fla.2006)); see Kocaker v. State, 119 So.3d 1214, 1228 (Fla.) (“This Court is ......
  • ROSS v. State of Fla., No. SC07-2368.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • 8 Septiembre 2010
    ...required to give Miranda warnings to every potential suspect. Miranda warnings apply only to in-custody interrogations. Hunter v. State, 8 So.3d 1052, 1063 (Fla.2008), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 129 S.Ct. 2005, 173 L.Ed.2d 1101 (2009); see also Miranda, 384 U.S. at 441-42, 86 S.Ct. 1602. ......
  • State v. Addison, No. 2008-945.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of New Hampshire
    • 6 Octubre 2010
    ...speculation into the comparative proportionality review process, thereby complicating or obscuring such review. See Hunter v. State, 8 So.3d 1052, 1073 (Fla.2008) (in rejecting a death-and-life-imprisonment universe and a death-eligible universe, the court held that "comparison of non-death......
  • Johnson v. State , No. SC09–966.
    • United States
    • Florida Supreme Court
    • 27 Enero 2011
    ...the error here from other jury instruction errors which are subjected to harmless-error analysis. See, e.g., Hunter v. State, 8 So.3d 1052, 1071 (Fla.2008) (applying harmless-error analysis to trial court's use of the term “and/or” in jury instructions), cert. denied, ––– U.S. ––––, 129 S.C......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
47 cases
  • Yacob v. State, No. SC11–2505.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • 27 Marzo 2014
    ...to prevent the imposition of “unusual” punishments contrary to article I, section 17 of the Florida Constitution.’ ” Hunter v. State, 8 So.3d 1052, 1073 (Fla.2008) (quoting Simmons v. State, 934 So.2d 1100, 1122 (Fla.2006)); see Kocaker v. State, 119 So.3d 1214, 1228 (Fla.) (“This Court is ......
  • ROSS v. State of Fla., No. SC07-2368.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • 8 Septiembre 2010
    ...required to give Miranda warnings to every potential suspect. Miranda warnings apply only to in-custody interrogations. Hunter v. State, 8 So.3d 1052, 1063 (Fla.2008), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 129 S.Ct. 2005, 173 L.Ed.2d 1101 (2009); see also Miranda, 384 U.S. at 441-42, 86 S.Ct. 1602. ......
  • State v. Addison, No. 2008-945.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of New Hampshire
    • 6 Octubre 2010
    ...speculation into the comparative proportionality review process, thereby complicating or obscuring such review. See Hunter v. State, 8 So.3d 1052, 1073 (Fla.2008) (in rejecting a death-and-life-imprisonment universe and a death-eligible universe, the court held that "comparison of non-death......
  • Johnson v. State , No. SC09–966.
    • United States
    • Florida Supreme Court
    • 27 Enero 2011
    ...the error here from other jury instruction errors which are subjected to harmless-error analysis. See, e.g., Hunter v. State, 8 So.3d 1052, 1071 (Fla.2008) (applying harmless-error analysis to trial court's use of the term “and/or” in jury instructions), cert. denied, ––– U.S. ––––, 129 S.C......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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