Lawrence v. State, No. SC06-352.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Writing for the CourtPer Curiam
Citation969 So.2d 294
PartiesJonathan Huey LAWRENCE, Appellant, v. STATE of Florida, Appellee. Jonathan Huey Lawrence, Petitioner, v. James R. McDonough, etc., Respondent.
Decision Date01 November 2007
Docket NumberNo. SC06-352.,No. SC06-1152.
969 So.2d 294
Jonathan Huey LAWRENCE, Appellant,
v.
STATE of Florida, Appellee.
Jonathan Huey Lawrence, Petitioner,
v.
James R. McDonough, etc., Respondent.
No. SC06-352.
No. SC06-1152.
Supreme Court of Florida.
November 1, 2007.

[969 So.2d 297]

Michael P. Reiter, Venice, FL, for Appellant/Petitioner.

Bill McCollum, Attorney General, and Charmaine M. Millsaps, Assistant Attorney General, Tallahassee, FL, for Appellee/Respondent.

PER CURIAM.


Jonathan Huey Lawrence appeals an order of the circuit court denying his motion to vacate his conviction of first-degree murder and sentence of death filed under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.851 and petitions this Court for a writ of habeas corpus. We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 3(b)(1), (9), Fla. Const.

I. FACTS

On direct appeal, this Court summarized the underlying facts as follows:

On March 24, 2000, Lawrence pled guilty to principal to first-degree murder of Jennifer Robinson, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, giving alcoholic beverages to a person under twenty-one, and abuse of a dead human corpse. Lawrence's codefendant, Jeremiah Martel Rodgers, picked up eighteen-year-old Jennifer Robinson from her mother's home on May 7, 1998. Rodgers and Robinson met Lawrence, and all three drove in Lawrence's truck to a secluded area in the woods. After imbibing alcoholic beverages, Robinson had sex with Rodgers and then with Lawrence. At some point thereafter, Rodgers shot Robinson in the back of the head using Lawrence's Lorcin .380 handgun. The gunshot rendered Robinson instantly unconscious, and she died minutes later. Lawrence and Rodgers loaded Robinson's body into Lawrence's truck and drove further into the woods. Lawrence made an incision into Robinson's leg and removed her calf muscle. Rodgers took Polaroid pictures of the body, including a picture of Lawrence's hand holding Robinson's foot. Lawrence and Rodgers buried Robinson at that site.

Investigators traced Robinson's disappearance to Lawrence and Rodgers. When confronted by Investigator Todd Hand, Lawrence denied knowing Robinson and consented to Hand's request to search Lawrence's trailer and truck. After recovering multiple notes written by Lawrence and Polaroid photographs depicting Robinson post-mortem, Hand arrested Lawrence. One page of the recovered notes states in part: "get her very drunk," "yell in her ears to check consicouse [sic]," "even slap hard,"

969 So.2d 298

"[r]ape many, many, many times," "`slice and dice,' [d]isect [sic] completely," "bag up eatabile [sic] meats," and "bag remains and bury and burn." Another page of notes provides a list of items and tasks, some of which had been checked off or scribbled out. That list includes "coolers of ice = for new meat," strawberry wine, everclear alcohol, scalpels, Polaroid film, and ".380 or-and bowies [knives]." Other items located by investigators during their search of Lawrence's trailer and truck included a box for a Lorcin .380 handgun; empty Polaroid film packages; a piece of human tissue in Lawrence's freezer; a blue and white ice chest; an empty plastic ice bag; disposable gloves; a scrapbook; and several books, including an anatomy book entitled The Incredible Machine, within which had been marked female anatomy pages and pen lines drawn at the calf section of a leg. Lawrence subsequently confessed to his involvement, after waiving his Miranda rights [see Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966)], and led detectives to Robinson's body.

Lawrence v. State, 846 So.2d 440, 442-43 (Fla.2003) (footnotes omitted). At Lawrence's penalty phase before a jury, the State submitted evidence pertaining to two aggravators: (1) Lawrence committed two prior violent crimes shortly before Robinson's murder;1 and (2) the murder was committed in a cold, calculated, and premeditated manner (CCP). Id. at 443-44. The State introduced Lawrence's tape-recorded confessions to the Robinson murder and the Livingston murder. Lawrence presented evidence relating to numerous mitigating circumstances by calling witnesses who testified about Lawrence's disturbed childhood and his limited mental capacity. Id. at 444. He also presented three expert witnesses who testified that Lawrence had organic brain damage and schizophrenia. Two of the experts testified that both statutory mental mitigators applied and that Lawrence could be considered a follower. Id. The jury recommended death by a vote of eleven to one. A Spencer2 hearing was held.3 The trial court found two aggravating circumstances,4 five statutory mitigating circumstances,5 and four nonstatutory

969 So.2d 299

mitigating circumstances.6 Id. at 445. After weighing these factors and considering the jury's recommendation, the trial court sentenced Lawrence to death. On direct appeal, Lawrence raised seven claims.7 This Court held that Lawrence failed to establish any prejudicial errors and affirmed the sentence of death. See Lawrence, 846 So.2d at 441.

Lawrence filed a timely motion for postconviction relief with the trial court, raising eight claims: (1) his constitutional rights were violated because his guilty plea was not knowing and voluntary; (2) his convictions and death sentence are unreliable because no adversarial testing occurred during the pretrial and guilt-phase proceedings due to the ineffective assistance of his counsel; (3) his sentence is unreliable because inadequate testing occurred during the penalty phase due to ineffective assistance of counsel; (4) the Florida death penalty sentencing statute is unconstitutional as applied; (5) Lawrence's constitutional rights were violated because he was denied the opportunity to interview jurors; (6) execution by electrocution or lethal injection is cruel or unusual punishment; (7) Lawrence may be incompetent at the time of execution; and (8) the cumulative effect of the procedural and substantive errors deprived Lawrence of a fundamentally fair trial. He later amended his motion, raising the additional claim that counsel was ineffective for failing to request a competency hearing during the penalty phase.

During an evidentiary hearing, Lawrence presented numerous witnesses, including five expert witnesses: Dr. Frank Wood, Dr. Robert Napier, Dr. Barry Crown, Dr. James Larson, and Dr. Lawrence Gilgun. Each of the experts testified as to their testing of the defendant and Lawrence's mental deficiencies. Drs. Larson and Gilgun asserted that Lawrence showed evidence of malingering on their tests, while Dr. Crown asserted that he tested Lawrence for malingering and found no evidence of this. The experts had differing opinions as to whether Lawrence may have been incompetent at the time of the penalty phase.

Lawrence presented the testimony of both his sister and his mother, who testified as to the circumstances of the plea and the statements discussed by the attorneys when the attorneys recommended that Lawrence plead guilty. Lawrence's trial counsel, Elton Killam and Antoinette Stitt, also testified. Both Killam and Stitt had extensive prior criminal experience. Killam testified as to numerous decisions that he had made in reference to his representation of Lawrence. Killam was questioned at length regarding Lawrence's competency. After reviewing Dr. Larson's report, which was made early in the proceedings, Killam did not believe that Lawrence was incompetent, and Killam did not see any deterioration in Lawrence's mental

969 So.2d 300

faculties during the time of his representation. Although Lawrence complained about experiencing hallucinations twice during the penalty phase, Killam thought that Lawrence was having a "bout with his conscience." Based on the evidence as it existed, Killam firmly believed that Lawrence's best chance to avoid the death penalty was that Lawrence plead guilty to being a principal and then for counsel to direct the jury's focus toward the substantial mitigation showing that Lawrence's brain was dysfunctional and that Lawrence was under the influence of his codefendant, Rodgers, at the time of the crime. Co-counsel Stitt, on the other hand, had concerns as to Lawrence's competency throughout her representation of Lawrence. However, while she had her own personal concerns, two experts found Lawrence competent. In hindsight, Stitt would have requested a competency hearing after Lawrence complained of hallucinations; at the time, though, she chose not to after consulting with Killam, who believed Lawrence was simply upset by the evidence.

Lawrence called the trial judge as a witness, who appeared telephonically. The trial judge stated that if counsel had made a good-faith representation that Lawrence was having competency issues during the trial, he would have permitted an evaluation, but there was nothing different about Lawrence's behavior that raised any of these concerns. Lawrence called Lieutenant Todd Hand,8 who testified about Lawrence's behavior after he was arrested and Lawrence's numerous recorded statements. Finally, Lawrence testified as to his counsel's advice about pleading guilty, his memories of the initial arrest, his discussions with Lieutenant Hand, and his understanding of the plea, along with other matters involving the case.

After the defense rested, the State called Michelle Heldmyer, who was the lead prosecutor in the federal case involving Livingston's murder. The State also called Deputy Jarvis, who spent time with Lawrence shortly after Lawrence reported having hallucinations. According to Deputy Jarvis, when he asked Lawrence why he was upset, Lawrence replied that he did not want to hear his taped confession because it made it seem like the crime was happening all over again. After the postconviction court heard all of the testimony and considered the parties' written arguments, it denied relief in a lengthy and detailed order. Lawrence appeals this decision.

II. ANALYSIS

On appeal, Lawrence raises the same claims that he raised to the...

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40 practice notes
  • Stallworth v. Inch, Case No.: 3:17cv937/MCR/EMT
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Florida
    • July 8, 2019
    ...more vigorously for a competency evaluation, especially after having requested a continuance, which was denied. See Lawrence v. State, 969 So. 2d 294, 313-314 (Fla. 2007). See also Lamarca v. State, 931 So. 2d 838, 847-848 (Fla. 2006). Defendant is not entitled to relief on this claim.(Ex. ......
  • Lawrence v. State, No. SC18-2061
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • October 29, 2020
    ...subsequently affirmed the denial of Lawrence's initial postconviction motion and denied his habeas petition. Lawrence v. State , 969 So. 2d 294, 315 (Fla. 2007).308 So.3d 547 Thereafter, the trial court granted Lawrence's successive postconviction motion, vacated his death sentence, and ord......
  • State v. Hulsey, No. CR-14-0291-AP
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Arizona
    • January 18, 2018
    ...(emphasis in original); see also Carroll v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr. , 574 F.3d 1354, 1370 (11th Cir. 2009) ; Lawrence v. State , 969 So.2d 294, 300 n.9 (Fla. 2007) ; Lewis , 620 S.E.2d at 786. Instead, it is up to each juror to determine if a defendant's mental condition is a mitigating ......
  • Muhammad v. State, No. SC13–2105.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • December 19, 2013
    ...ill persons are similar to and should be treated the same as juvenile murderers who are exempt from execution); Lawrence v. State, 969 So.2d 294, 300 n. 9 (Fla.2007) (rejecting assertion that the Equal Protection Clause requires extension of Atkins to the mentally ill due to their reduced c......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
40 cases
  • Stallworth v. Inch, Case No.: 3:17cv937/MCR/EMT
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Florida
    • July 8, 2019
    ...more vigorously for a competency evaluation, especially after having requested a continuance, which was denied. See Lawrence v. State, 969 So. 2d 294, 313-314 (Fla. 2007). See also Lamarca v. State, 931 So. 2d 838, 847-848 (Fla. 2006). Defendant is not entitled to relief on this claim.(Ex. ......
  • Lawrence v. State, No. SC18-2061
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • October 29, 2020
    ...subsequently affirmed the denial of Lawrence's initial postconviction motion and denied his habeas petition. Lawrence v. State , 969 So. 2d 294, 315 (Fla. 2007).308 So.3d 547 Thereafter, the trial court granted Lawrence's successive postconviction motion, vacated his death sentence, and ord......
  • State v. Hulsey, No. CR-14-0291-AP
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Arizona
    • January 18, 2018
    ...(emphasis in original); see also Carroll v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr. , 574 F.3d 1354, 1370 (11th Cir. 2009) ; Lawrence v. State , 969 So.2d 294, 300 n.9 (Fla. 2007) ; Lewis , 620 S.E.2d at 786. Instead, it is up to each juror to determine if a defendant's mental condition is a mitigating ......
  • Muhammad v. State, No. SC13–2105.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • December 19, 2013
    ...ill persons are similar to and should be treated the same as juvenile murderers who are exempt from execution); Lawrence v. State, 969 So.2d 294, 300 n. 9 (Fla.2007) (rejecting assertion that the Equal Protection Clause requires extension of Atkins to the mentally ill due to their reduced c......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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