Jones v. State, No. 61492

CourtFlorida Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtADKINS; ALDERMAN
Citation440 So.2d 570
PartiesLeo Alexander JONES, Appellant, v. STATE of Florida, Appellee.
Docket NumberNo. 61492
Decision Date15 September 1983

Page 570

440 So.2d 570
Leo Alexander JONES, Appellant,
v.
STATE of Florida, Appellee.
No. 61492.
Supreme Court of Florida.
Sept. 15, 1983.
Rehearing Denied Dec. 5, 1983.

Page 571

H. Randolph Fallin, Jacksonville, for appellant.

Jim Smith, Atty. Gen. and Barbara Ann Butler, Asst. Atty. Gen., Jacksonville, for appellee.

ADKINS, Judge.

This is an appeal from a judgment of the Fourth Judicial Circuit, Duval County. The court adjudicated the appellant, Jones, guilty of murder in the first degree and followed the jury recommendation in sentencing him to death. We have jurisdiction. Art. V, § 3(b)(1), Fla. Const.

We have carefully reviewed each of appellant's stated grounds of appeal as the discussion to follow will show. We have considered the entire record of the proceedings below in order to determine whether the jury's verdict of guilt was supported by substantial, competent evidence. We have further reviewed the sentencing proceeding to determine whether the sentence of death is appropriate to this case under law. § 921.141(4), Fla.Stat. (1981). We affirm the conviction and the sentence.

Page 572

The evidence at trial showed that on May 23, 1981, shortly after 1:00 A.M., Officer Thomas J. Szafranski was shot in his squad car at the intersection of 6th Street and Davis Street, Jacksonville, Florida. Officer Wilmouth was first on the scene. While Wilmouth waited for medical assistance to arrive a group of people came out of a nearby bar and approached him. One unidentified member of the group indicated that the shots had come from the two-story apartment building fronting the 6th and Davis Street intersection. Thereafter Wilmouth proceeded to investigate this building.

Officer Mundy had been informed of the incident by radio and quickly joined Wilmouth in the investigation. According to Mundy, the reputation of the apartment building in question was well travelled in law enforcement circles. Mundy entered the building fully aware that the vacant lower left apartment was a known "stash house" harboring drug users, vagabonds and other street criminals.

The two officers' search of the building's lower level produced nothing. However, Wilmouth informed Mundy that he had heard "shuffling" in the upper left apartment. Thereafter Mundy approached this apartment, knocked on the door, and proceeded to identify himself as a police officer. His repeated knocking, however, went unanswered. When Mundy continued to hear voices coming from within he entered the apartment; there he confronted appellant and appellant's cousin, Bobby Hammond, charging them both with attempted first-degree murder. During a cursory search of the apartment, assisting officers located several high-powered rifles, resting in plain view, but did not, at that time, disturb them.

Both appellant and Hammond were then transported to the Police Memorial Building. There, after being given repeated Miranda warnings by Officer Eason, appellant signed a statement incriminating himself and exonerating his cousin, Hammond.

At trial the appellant filed two motions to suppress. The first motion was directed toward the written statement given to Detective Eason. The second sought suppression of all items of evidence seized from appellant or from appellant's residence. The trial court denied both motions after determining that appellant's confession was freely and voluntarily given, and that the warrantless search was justified under the circumstances.

In his first point on appeal, appellant contends that the warrantless police search violated his fourth and fourteenth amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures; and this entry being unconstitutional all evidence seized pursuant to the search should have been suppressed. We do not agree.

The fourth and fourteenth amendments do indeed safeguard against a warrantless entry into a person's home for purpose of a routine felony arrest. Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 100 S.Ct. 1371, 63 L.Ed.2d 639 (1980). However, where exigent circumstances exist, certain warrantless entries are permitted. Arango v. State, 411 So.2d 172 (Fla.), cert. denied, 457 U.S. 1140, 102 S.Ct. 2973, 73 L.Ed.2d 1360 (1982); Williams v. State, 403 So.2d 430 (Fla.3d DCA 1981); Pomerantz v. State, 372 So.2d 104 (Fla. 3d DCA 1979), cert. denied and appeal dismissed, 386 So.2d 642 (Fla.1980).

In the case before us, the arresting officers were confronted with a potentially deadly situation. That exigent circumstances existed is without doubt. One man lay mortally wounded from a sniper's bullet while the sniper himself remained at large in a densely populated residential section. The very nature of such a brutal and random attack required swift and effective police action in order to prevent additional harm to innocent members of society. "The Fourth Amendment does not require police officers to delay in the course of an investigation if to do so would endanger their lives or the lives of others." Warden v. Hayden, 387 U.S. 294, 298-299, 87 S.Ct. 1642, 1646, 18 L.Ed.2d 782 (1967). Here the record firmly supports the officers' belief that the suspect was inside the apartment. The delay,

Page 573

incident to obtaining a warrant to search said apartment, would have exposed both the officers and the other tenants to serious danger. In light of these factors the warrantless entry into appellant's apartment was justified. See Dorman v. United States, 435 F.2d 385 (D.C.Cir.1970).

Appellant further argues that the officers' intrusion into his dwelling violated section 901.19(1), Florida Statutes (1981)--The Knock and Announce Statute. Appellant specifically contends that while the officers did knock, they failed to announce their purpose prior to entry. We do not agree.

Here, strong argument can be made that there was substantial compliance with the statute notwithstanding a failure to announce the officers' purpose. Moreover, under certain limited exceptions an officer may enter a dwelling to effect an arrest without complying with section 901.19(1). Raffield v. State, 351 So.2d 945 (Fla.1977). This Court, in Benefield v. State, 160 So.2d 706 (Fla.1964), advanced several exceptions to the knock and announce requirements of section 901.19(1), Florida Statutes, stating in pertinent part:

As we interpret the common law authorities in relation to § 901.19(1), Florida Statutes, F.S.A., we conclude that even if probable cause exists for the arrest of a person, our statute is violated by an unannounced intrusion in the form of a breaking and entering any building, including a private home, except (1) where the person within already knows of the officer's authority and purpose; (2) where the officers are justified in the belief that the persons within are in imminent peril of bodily harm; (3) if the officer's peril would have been increased had he demanded entrance and stated the purpose, or (4) where those within made aware of the presence of someone outside are then engaged in activities which justify the officers in the belief that an escape or destruction of evidence is being attempted.

160 So.2d at 710 (emphasis supplied). We find the third Benefield exception to apply in the instant case. As previously determined, the officers were faced with exigent circumstances. The record established that there was strong reason to believe the sniper was present within the apartment and had ready access to firearms. Accordingly, the officers were reasonable in concluding that an announcement of purpose would have increased their peril. See Williams v. State, 403 So.2d 430 (Fla. 3d DCA 1981). Inasmuch as there were exigent circumstances present and full compliance with section 901.19(1), Florida Statutes (1981), would have further endangered the lives of the officers, their failure to comply with the Knock and Announce Statute was justified. The trial court, therefore, correctly denied appellant's motion to suppress.

Appellant's second point on appeal challenges the trial judge's denial of his motion to suppress the following statement:

L.J. I, Leo Jones have been given my rights and I fully understand them and am making this statement on my own free will. I have given Det. Eason permission to write this statement for me. I, Leo Jones on 23 May 81 took a rifle out of the front room of my apartment and went down the back stairs and walked to the front empty apartment and shot the policeman through the front window of the apartment. I then ran back upstairs and hid the gun or rifle and then the police came. L.J.

Appellant argues that this statement, which he admits to signing, was obtained under coercive circumstances. His position, however, is not supported by the record.

The trial judge specifically found appellant's statement to be freely and voluntarily given. Such a finding comes before this Court with "the same presumption of correctness which attends jury verdicts and final judgments." Stone v. State, 378 So.2d 765, 769-70 (Fla.1979), cert. denied, 449 U.S. 986, 101 S.Ct. 407, 66 L.Ed.2d 250 (1980). In the case sub judice this "presumption of correctness" has not been eroded by appellant's argument.

Page 574

Contrary to appellant's contention, the statement was properly admitted at trial notwithstanding appellant's refusal to sign a written waiver form foregoing his Miranda rights. A refusal to sign a written waiver form is not a conclusive indication that a suspect wished to remain silent. North Carolina v. Butler, 441 U.S. 369, 99 S.Ct. 1755, 60 L.Ed.2d 286 (1979). Furthermore, the trial judge was quite proper in determining that the appellant had implicitly waived his Miranda rights. Implicit waiver can operate as effective waiver especially where adequate Miranda warnings are given and the suspect indicates an understanding thereof. Jordan v. State, 334 So.2d 589, 592 (Fla.1976). The record firmly establishes that appellant rendered his statement after having been first properly advised of his Miranda rights and...

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43 practice notes
  • Coday v. State, No. SC02-1920.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • October 26, 2006
    ...to the safety of persons or property, see Richardson v. State, 247 So.2d 296 (Fla.1971), as well as the safety of police. Jones v. State, 440 So.2d 570 (Fla.1983). Of course, a key ingredient of the exigency requirement is that the police lack time to secure a search warrant. Police may not......
  • Swafford v. State, No. 68009
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • September 29, 1988
    ...value even without specific referential facts), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 1038, 106 S.Ct. 607, 88 L.Ed.2d 585 (1985); Jones v. State, 440 So.2d 570, 577 (Fla.1983) (court found evidence to the effect that, prior to the time of the offense charged, the defendant had said that he was going to "k......
  • Rolling v. State, No. 83638
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • March 20, 1997
    ...to the safety of persons or property, see Richardson v. State, 247 So.2d 296 (Fla.1971), as well as the safety of police. Jones v. State, 440 So.2d 570 (Fla.1983). Of course, a key ingredient of the exigency requirement is that the police lack time to secure a search warrant. Police may not......
  • Jones v. State, No. 92234
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • March 17, 1998
    ...first-degree murder and sentenced to death in 1981. This Court affirmed the conviction and sentence on direct appeal. See Jones v. State, 440 So.2d 570 (Fla.1983). Since that time, Jones has made several unsuccessful attempts to obtain relief. Specifically, this Court denied Jones' first pe......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
45 cases
  • Coday v. State, No. SC02-1920.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • October 26, 2006
    ...to the safety of persons or property, see Richardson v. State, 247 So.2d 296 (Fla.1971), as well as the safety of police. Jones v. State, 440 So.2d 570 (Fla.1983). Of course, a key ingredient of the exigency requirement is that the police lack time to secure a search warrant. Police may not......
  • Swafford v. State, No. 68009
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • September 29, 1988
    ...value even without specific referential facts), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 1038, 106 S.Ct. 607, 88 L.Ed.2d 585 (1985); Jones v. State, 440 So.2d 570, 577 (Fla.1983) (court found evidence to the effect that, prior to the time of the offense charged, the defendant had said that he was going to "k......
  • Rolling v. State, No. 83638
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • March 20, 1997
    ...to the safety of persons or property, see Richardson v. State, 247 So.2d 296 (Fla.1971), as well as the safety of police. Jones v. State, 440 So.2d 570 (Fla.1983). Of course, a key ingredient of the exigency requirement is that the police lack time to secure a search warrant. Police may not......
  • Jones v. State, No. 92234
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • March 17, 1998
    ...first-degree murder and sentenced to death in 1981. This Court affirmed the conviction and sentence on direct appeal. See Jones v. State, 440 So.2d 570 (Fla.1983). Since that time, Jones has made several unsuccessful attempts to obtain relief. Specifically, this Court denied Jones' first pe......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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