Joseph v. State, SC20-1741

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
PartiesMARLIN L. JOSEPH, Appellant, v. STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellee.
Docket NumberSC20-1741
Decision Date10 February 2022

MARLIN L. JOSEPH, Appellant,
v.

STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellee.

No. SC20-1741

Supreme Court of Florida

February 10, 2022


An Appeal from the Circuit Court in and for Palm Beach County, Case No. 502017CF012413AXXXMB, Cheryl Caracuzzo, Judge.

Fredrick R. Susaneck of Levine & Susaneck, P.A., West Palm Beach, Florida, for Appellant

Ashley Moody, Attorney General, Tallahassee, Florida, and Rhonda Giger, Assistant Attorney General, West Palm Beach, Florida, for Appellee

PER CURIAM.

Marlin Joseph appeals two first-degree murder convictions and two corresponding sentences of death.[1] For the reasons explained below, we affirm Joseph's convictions and sentences of death.

I. BACKGROUND

On January 18, 2018, Marlin Joseph was indicted for two counts of first-degree murder with a firearm related to the deaths of

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Kaladaa Crowell and her 11-year-old daughter, Kyra Inglett.[2] The incident in this case occurred on December 28, 2017. The evidence presented at trial established that at that time, Joseph resided in a home in West Palm Beach with his mother, Robin Denson; Denson's girlfriend, Crowell; Crowell's daughter, Kyra; and Joseph's three brothers, Parice Joseph, Patrick Joseph, and Cordarius Joseph.[3] Also staying at the home at the time was Joseph's eight-year-old daughter, Kamare Canty, and Jeshema Tarver, Denson's goddaughter.

Earlier in the day, an incident occurred between Kyra and Kamare. Kamare asked Kyra and Jeshema to sit on her back because it was hurting. Kamare then told Kyra and Jeshema to get off her back because they were hurting her, but Kyra had trouble getting off Kamare. Jeshema testified at trial that another incident had occurred on December 23, 2017 (two days before Christmas and five days before the shootings), and she heard Joseph yelling to

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Denson about Kyra saying she "ha[d] one more time to make [him] mad or to bother, she needs to leave my daughter alone."

Later in the day on December 28, 2017, Parice and Patrick picked Denson up at the end of her workday, and Denson went grocery shopping before returning home. Present in the home when they arrived were Joseph, Crowell, Kyra, Kamare, Cordarius, and Jeshema. Joseph helped bring in the groceries and then was reading his Bible in the room he shared with Patrick, and Cordarius and the girls (Kamare, Kyra, and Jeshema) were sitting on the couch in the living room. The girls were laughing, talking, and on their phones. Crowell was folding clothes in the room she shared with Denson. After Denson arrived home, she had a conversation with Joseph in the living room area about a text message he received from Crowell, who was still in her room. During this conversation, Joseph brought up Kamare's mother asking whether she was coming to pick Kamare up. Denson testified that Joseph was not upset but was being disrespectful about Kamare's mother. Joseph started using expletives in reference to Kamare's mother, and Denson told him to calm down because she did not want the kids to hear that kind of language. After the conversation with

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Joseph, Denson walked outside to the porch where Parice and Cordarius were. Cordarius was outside the home waiting for his girlfriend to pick him up. Denson took Cordarius aside, and they went to the sidewalk in front of the home while Parice stayed on the porch.

Jeshema went to take a shower, and she heard arguing between Joseph and Crowell. Jeshema heard Joseph say to Crowell, "Why is your daughter [Kyra] being mean to my daughter [Kamare], she didn't do anything wrong." Jeshema exited the shower after hearing three loud bangs. She heard Crowell screaming and crying, asking for someone to call 911. Jeshema then heard another bang. She opened the bathroom door, and Kamare told her Crowell and Kyra had been shot. Jeshema walked out to blood all over the floor and Crowell flat on her face. Jeshema and Kamare went into Kyra's room and hid under the bed. Kamare called 911 using Joseph's phone.

Parice heard gunshots while sitting on the front porch. He saw Kyra run outside, looking backwards. Joseph came outside after Kyra. Parice tackled Joseph because he was scared after hearing the gunshots. Parice saw Joseph with a gun in his hand.

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Parice attempted to get the gun from Joseph but was unsuccessful. Parice saw Joseph run back into the home while Kyra was lying on the walkway. Parice ran to go check on Denson and Cordarius down the street. Joseph exited the home again and drove off in Crowell's car. Parice testified at trial that he did not see anyone shoot Crowell or Kyra, but he also saw Joseph with a gun a couple of days prior. Besides Joseph, Parice did not see anyone else with a gun.

While outside, Denson and Cordarius also heard gunshots coming from inside the home, and Cordarius told Denson to run. Cordarius saw Kyra come outside and fall to the ground. Cordarius did not see Joseph chasing Kyra. Denson ended up on the ground in her neighbor's yard; Patrick later picked her up off the ground. Patrick was crying and told Denson that Crowell had been shot. Denson went to the front of the home and saw Kyra on the sidewalk. Kyra was not moving but was breathing. Denson ran inside with Parice and saw Crowell on the floor in between the living room and dining room area. Denson checked for a pulse, but Crowell was unresponsive. Denson did not see Parice, Patrick, or

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Cordarius with a gun. She also did not see Joseph with a gun and did not see him at all during the incident.

Joseph was the only person not at the scene when police arrived. Officer Ryan Forbes, the first responding officer, arrived at the scene and saw Kyra on the sidewalk with a gunshot wound to her head. She was breathing but would not talk back to him. Officer Forbes went inside to find a lifeless Crowell on the ground. Unlike Crowell, Kyra showed signs of life when police and medical personnel arrived-she had a pulse and was breathing. Kyra was transported to the hospital but died hours later. She never regained consciousness from the time police found her at the crime scene to when she died. Crowell and Kyra each died from gunshot wounds. Five spent cartridge casings were found outside the home, and four spent casings were found inside the home. The State's firearms expert opined that the casings were fired from the same firearm. A firearm was never found.

The medical examiner testified concerning his autopsies of Crowell and Kyra. Crowell sustained several gunshot wounds to various parts of her body-the back of her right hand (defensive wound), her belly, left calf, chest, the back of her head, and

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forehead. The wound to Crowell's forehead was fatal; the bullet broke her skull and destroyed her brain. Kyra also sustained several gunshot wounds to various parts of her body-left buttock, lower back, the side of her head, and the back of her head. The wound to the back of Kyra's head was fatal; the bullet entered the back of her head and exited her forehead, damaging her skull and brain.

Later that night, Denson, Parice, Patrick, and Cordarius went to the police station to give statements. Detective Paul Creelman, the lead detective in this case, interviewed Denson, Parice, and Cordarius; and Parice and Cordarius identified Joseph as the shooter. Joseph's family members recanted in their trial testimony regarding their prior statements to the police. However, the State introduced Parice's and Cordarius' identifications of Joseph as the shooter through Detective Creelman's testimony. Specifically, Detective Creelman testified, "Cordarius told me that his brother, Marlin Joseph, had shot Kyra." Detective Creelman also testified that "Parice told me his brother, Marlin Joseph," was the shooter. Joseph was later found in Lake Worth and taken into custody on January 2, 2018.

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On February 24, 2020, a jury found Joseph guilty of first-degree murder with a firearm on both counts. The penalty phase of the trial began the same day with the same jury. The State presented two witnesses-Joseph's then-probation officer and a latent print examiner. Through these witnesses, the State introduced evidence of Joseph's prior conviction for battery on a child. The defense called 15 witnesses, most of whom were lay witnesses.

On February 26, 2020, the jury rendered unanimous verdicts recommending a penalty of death on both counts of first-degree murder with a firearm, determining the aggravating factors outweighed the mitigating circumstances. The jury found that the State had established beyond a reasonable doubt the existence of the following aggravating factors: (1) Joseph was previously convicted of a felony and was on felony probation; (2) Joseph was previously convicted of another capital felony or a felony involving the use or threat of violence to another person; (3) the first-degree murder was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel (HAC); and (4) the first-degree murder was committed in a cold, calculated, and premeditated (CCP) manner. As to Kyra, the jury also found a fifth

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aggravator-the victim was a person less than 12 years of age. The jury found no mitigating circumstances.

A Spencer[4] hearing was held on October 16, 2020, and sentencing occurred on November 19, 2020. The trial court followed the jury's recommendation and sentenced Joseph to death. The trial court found four aggravating factors that applied to both counts: (1) Joseph was previously convicted of a felony and under sentence of imprisonment or on felony probation (moderate weight); (2) Joseph was previously convicted of another capital felony or a felony involving the use or threat of violence (great weight); (3) the first-degree murder was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel (great weight); and (4) the first-degree murder was committed in a cold, calculated, and premeditated manner (great weight). The trial court found an additional aggravator for the charge related to Kyra-the victim of the...

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