Lawrence v. State, No. SC00-2290

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM.
Citation831 So.2d 121
PartiesGary LAWRENCE, Appellant, v. STATE of Florida, Appellee. Gary Lawrence, Petitioner, v. Michael W. Moore, etc., et al., Respondents.
Docket Number No. SC01-674., No. SC00-2290
Decision Date17 October 2002

831 So.2d 121

Gary LAWRENCE, Appellant,
v.
STATE of Florida, Appellee.
Gary Lawrence, Petitioner,
v.
Michael W. Moore, etc., et al., Respondents

Nos. SC00-2290, SC01-674.

Supreme Court of Florida.

October 17, 2002.


831 So.2d 124
Joseph F. McDermott, St. Petersbrug, FL, for Appellant/Petitioner

Robert A. Butterworth, Attorney General, and Barbara J. Yates, Assistant Attorney General, Tallahassee, FL, for Appellee/Respondent.

PER CURIAM.

Gary Lawrence, an inmate under sentence of death, appeals an order of the circuit court denying his amended motion for postconviction relief under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.850 and petitions this Court for a writ of habeas corpus. We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 3(b)(1),(9), Fla. Const. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the denial of Lawrence's postconviction motion and deny his petition for habeas corpus.

PROCEEDINGS TO DATE

The facts are set forth in Lawrence v. State, 698 So.2d 1219 (Fla.1997), where this Court affirmed Lawrence's convictions and sentences:

Shortly after Gary and Brenda Lawrence were married, they separated, and another man, Michael Finken, moved in with Brenda and her two daughters, Stephanie and Kimberly Pitts, and Stephanie's friend, Rachel Matin. On the day of the murder, July 28, 1994, Gary and Michael drove Brenda to work and then drank beer at a friend's house. Later, Gary and Michael picked Brenda up and the three returned to the friend's house where they drank more beer. After the three returned to Brenda's apartment, Gary and Michael argued and Gary hit Michael when he learned that Michael had been sleeping with Brenda. Gary and Michael seemed to resolve their differences, and Michael fell asleep on the couch. Gary and Brenda conversed, and Brenda went through the house collecting weapons— including a pipe and a baseball bat. Gary and Brenda told Kimberly and Rachel that they were "going to knock off Mike." Gary told Kimberly to "stay in your bedroom no matter what you hear."
The trial court described what happened after Gary and Brenda spoke to the girls:
Thereafter, the two girls heard what they described as a pounding sound. At one point, Rachel Matin stated that she heard the victim say, "stop it, if you stop, I'll leave." She stated that she heard that statement several times. Kimberly Pitts stated she heard the victim say "please don't hit me, I'm already bleeding." The victim's pleas, however, were met with more pounding. Once the pounding stopped, the girls were required to assist in the clean up and described to the jury what they observed. Kimberly stated that much of the victim's right side of his face was missing and his chin was knocked over to his ear. Rachel Matin stated that there was no skin left on the victim's face and part of his nose was missing. Apparently the victim was still alive. Kimberly observed her mother coming out of the kitchen area with what appeared to be a dagger and then, although not seeing the dagger in her hand at the time, observed her mother make a
831 So.2d 125
stabbing motion toward the victim with something in her hand.
It was at that time when Brenda Lawrence requested that the girls obtain the assistance of Chris Wetherbee. Upon his entrance into the home, Chris Wetherbee observed the victim's head being caved in, blood all over, the victim's eyeball protruding approximately three inches and a mop handle shoved into the victim's throat. Wetherbee asked Gary Lawrence, "what's going on?" At which time the Defendant responded by pulling out the mop handle and kicking the victim and making the statement "this is what's going on." Immediately after removing the mop handle from the victim's throat, Wetherbee heard the victim give approximately three or four ragged breaths at which time the victim thereafter stopped breathing and apparently expired. The Defendant, Gary Lawrence, told Wetherbee that he had beat him with a pipe until it bent and then beat him with a baseball bat.
Chris Wetherbee summarized the victim's state: "And [he] looked like something off of one of the real good horror movies." Gary and Brenda then removed a small amount of money from Michael's pockets, wrapped the body in a shower curtain and placed the body in Michael's car, and Gary drove to a secluded area where he set the body afire. When Gary returned home, he and Brenda danced.
Gary Lawrence was arrested later that evening driving Michael's car and subsequently confessed, admitting that he had beaten Michael because Michael had been sleeping with Brenda. Lawrence was charged with first-degree murder, robbery, grand theft of a motor vehicle, and conspiracy to commit murder. At trial, the medical examiner testified as follows: Michael died of blunt trauma and possible asphyxia; Michael was alive when the mop handle was thrust down his throat; Michael's blood alcohol level was very high; and one or more of the blows to Michael's head could have caused loss of consciousness. Lawrence was convicted of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, auto theft, and petty theft.
During the penalty phase, Lawrence presented testimony of a brother, a psychologist, and a psychiatrist. The court followed the jury's nine-to-three vote and imposed a sentence of death based on three aggravating circumstances, [Note 1] no statutory mitigating circumstances, and five non-statutory mitigating circumstances. [Note 2] Lawrence also was sentenced to concurrent five-year terms of imprisonment on the conspiracy and auto theft charges and time served on the petty theft charge. (Brenda was tried separately and sentenced to life imprisonment for her role in the crimes.)
[Note 1:] The trial court found that the murder had been committed while Lawrence was under sentence of imprisonment; that the murder was heinous, atrocious, or cruel (HAC); and that the murder was committed in a cold, calculated, and premeditated manner (CCP).
[Note 2:] The trial court found that Lawrence cooperated with police; Lawrence had a learning disability and low IQ; Lawrence had a deprived childhood; Lawrence was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crimes; and Lawrence did not have a violent history.

Lawrence v. State, 698 So.2d 1219, 1220-21 (Fla.1997).

On direct appeal, Lawrence raised the following claims: (1) his death sentence was disproportionate to other death penalty

831 So.2d 126
cases; (2) the murder was not committed in a cold, calculated, and premeditated manner; (3) the murder was not heinous, atrocious, or cruel; and (4) the trial court erred in failing to find statutory mitigating circumstances and in rejecting the disparate treatment of his co-defendant Brenda as a mitigating circumstance. This Court did not find error in any of Lawrence's claims and affirmed his convictions and sentences

On April 22, 1999, Lawrence filed an amended motion for postconviction relief pursuant to Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure 3.850, asserting fourteen grounds for relief1 and a request to amend his postconviction motion. Ground one was subdivided into fourteen claims of ineffective assistance of counsel.2 On November 8, 1999, the trial court conducted a Huff3 hearing to discuss the issues raised in Lawrence's rule 3.850 motion. On March 8, 2000, the trial court entered an order setting forth the following issues to be resolved during a postconviction evidentiary hearing: (1) defense counsel's concession of guilt to lesser included offenses in the guilt phase without Lawrence's consent; (2) defense counsel's concession of guilt to first-degree murder in the penalty phase without Lawrence's consent; and (3) the failure to advise Lawrence of his right to testify. The remaining claims were summarily denied or waived. Following the evidentiary hearing, the circuit court issued a final order denying relief. Lawrence appealed the circuit court's denial of his postconviction motion and filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus raising thirteen claims of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel.4

831 So.2d 127
3.850 APPEAL

Lawrence first asserts that the trial court erred in summarily denying his claim relative to defense counsel's failure to present evidence of mental deficiencies and use of intoxicants. He specifically raised three subclaims contending that defense counsel failed (1) to establish his excessive use of intoxicants at the time of the homicide and to obtain testimony or records from nurse Carol Ann Thomas demonstrating his use of intoxicants; (2) to pursue or utilize adequate expert testimony in the guilt or penalty phase relative to his impairment from intoxicants or drugs; and (3) to pursue or present adequate evidence of Lawrence's mental or emotional disturbance. We address each subclaim in turn.

This Court has held on numerous occasions that a defendant is entitled to an evidentiary hearing on his motion for postconviction relief unless (1) the motion, files and records in the case conclusively show that the defendant is not entitled to any relief, or (2) the motion or a particular claim is facially invalid. See Cook v. State, 792 So.2d 1197, 1201-1202 (Fla.2001); Maharaj v. State, 684 So.2d 726 (Fla.1996). The defendant carries the burden of establishing a prima facie case based upon a legally valid claim. This Court has held the following:

A motion for postconviction relief can be denied without an evidentiary hearing when the motion and the record conclusively demonstrate that the movant is entitled to no relief. A defendant may not simply file a motion for postconviction relief containing conclusory allegations that his or her trial counsel was ineffective and then expect to receive an evidentiary hearing. The defendant must allege specific facts that, when considering the totality of the circumstances, are not conclusively rebutted by the record and that demonstrate a deficiency on the part of counsel which is detrimental to the defendant.

Kennedy v. State, 547 So.2d 912, 913 (Fla. 1989)...

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45 practice notes
  • Lynch v. Sec'y, Dep't of Corr., CASE NO. 6:09-cv-715-Orl-36DAB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
    • September 25, 2012
    ...of these offenses. Appellate counsel cannot be ineffective for failing to raise a meritless issue on appeal. See Lawrence v. State, 831 So. 2d 121, 135 (Fla. 2002); see also Kokal v. Dugger, 718 So. 2d 138, 142 (Fla. 1998) ("Appellate counsel cannot be faulted for failing to raise a nonmeri......
  • Taylor v. Sec'y, Case No. 8:10-cv-382-T-30AEP
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
    • June 1, 2011
    ...a perfunctory statement without specific argument fails to "fairly present" the claim to the state court. See e.g., Lawrence v. State, 831 So. 2d 121, 133 (Fla. 2002) ("Because Lawrence's bare claim is unsupported by argument, this Court affirms the trial court's summary denial of this subc......
  • Chavez v. State, No. SC07-952.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • June 25, 2009
    ...637, 643 (Fla.2000). Moreover, appellate counsel cannot be ineffective for failing to raise a meritless issue. See Lawrence v. State, 831 So.2d 121, 135 (Fla.2002); see also Kokal v. Dugger, 718 So.2d 138, 142 (Fla. 1998) ("Appellate counsel cannot be faulted for failing to raise a nonmerit......
  • Deparvine v. State, No. SC06-155.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • September 29, 2008
    ...release at the time of the murder is sufficient to satisfy the `under sentence of imprisonment' aggravator." Lawrence v. State, 831 So.2d 121, 136 (Fla. 2002) (citing Haliburton v. State, 561 So.2d 248, 252 (Fla.1990)). During the penalty phase, Officer Gordon testified that on April 28, 20......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
45 cases
  • Lynch v. Sec'y, Dep't of Corr., CASE NO. 6:09-cv-715-Orl-36DAB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
    • September 25, 2012
    ...of these offenses. Appellate counsel cannot be ineffective for failing to raise a meritless issue on appeal. See Lawrence v. State, 831 So. 2d 121, 135 (Fla. 2002); see also Kokal v. Dugger, 718 So. 2d 138, 142 (Fla. 1998) ("Appellate counsel cannot be faulted for failing to raise a nonmeri......
  • Taylor v. Sec'y, Case No. 8:10-cv-382-T-30AEP
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
    • June 1, 2011
    ...a perfunctory statement without specific argument fails to "fairly present" the claim to the state court. See e.g., Lawrence v. State, 831 So. 2d 121, 133 (Fla. 2002) ("Because Lawrence's bare claim is unsupported by argument, this Court affirms the trial court's summary denial of this subc......
  • Chavez v. State, No. SC07-952.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • June 25, 2009
    ...637, 643 (Fla.2000). Moreover, appellate counsel cannot be ineffective for failing to raise a meritless issue. See Lawrence v. State, 831 So.2d 121, 135 (Fla.2002); see also Kokal v. Dugger, 718 So.2d 138, 142 (Fla. 1998) ("Appellate counsel cannot be faulted for failing to raise a nonmerit......
  • Deparvine v. State, No. SC06-155.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • September 29, 2008
    ...release at the time of the murder is sufficient to satisfy the `under sentence of imprisonment' aggravator." Lawrence v. State, 831 So.2d 121, 136 (Fla. 2002) (citing Haliburton v. State, 561 So.2d 248, 252 (Fla.1990)). During the penalty phase, Officer Gordon testified that on April 28, 20......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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