Lebron v. State, SC93955.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Citation799 So.2d 997
Docket NumberNo. SC93955.,SC93955.
PartiesJermaine LEBRON, Appellant, v. STATE of Florida, Appellee.
Decision Date30 August 2001

799 So.2d 997

Jermaine LEBRON, Appellant,
STATE of Florida, Appellee

No. SC93955.

Supreme Court of Florida.

August 30, 2001.

Rehearing Denied November 1, 2001.

799 So.2d 1000
Robert A. Norgard, Bartow, FL, for Appellant

Robert A. Butterworth, Attorney General, and Judy Taylor Rush, Assistant Attorney General, Daytona Beach, FL, for Appellee.


We have on appeal the judgment and sentence of the trial court imposing the

799 So.2d 1001
death penalty upon Jermaine Lebron for the 1995 murder of Larry Neal Oliver. We have jurisdiction. Art. V, § 3(b)(1), Fla. Const. For reasons which follow, we affirm Lebron's convictions, but vacate his sentence of death, and remand for a new penalty phase proceeding


Guilt Phase Proceedings

Appellant, Jermaine Lebron ("Lebron") was arrested in New York City for the murder of Larry Neal Oliver. During the first trial concerning the charge, Lebron was represented by Mr. Slovis (a New York attorney, appearing pro hac vice on Lebron's behalf) and Mr. Norgard (a Florida lawyer, also representing Lebron on appeal).1 This first trial resulted in a mistrial, based upon the trial court's finding of a jury deadlock.

At the beginning of Lebron's retrial, Norgard was involved in another capital case, and, therefore, the pretrial and guilt phase proceedings were conducted with only Slovis appearing on Lebron's behalf. During this second trial, it was established that Lebron was a major participant in the robbery and murder of the victim (who worked with one of Lebron's acquaintances, Danny Summers). Indeed, all of the eyewitnesses testified that it was Lebron (nicknamed "Bugsy") who had directed the events both before and after the victim's death, and who, using a sawed-off shotgun (which he called "Betsy"), had fatally shot the victim.

According to eyewitnesses, the victim had been lured to a house in Osceola County (the "Gardenia house") where Lebron and several others were staying after Lebron offered to sell the victim some "spinners" for his truck. Shortly after the victim arrived at the home, Lebron called to him to come toward the back bedrooms. As the victim entered the hallway leading to the bedrooms, he was forced to lie face down, and was shot at short range in the back of the head. Eyewitnesses testified that, after the victim was shot, Lebron was smiling and laughing, yelling, "I did it. I did it," and describing how it felt to kill the victim, and what it looked like. Money, checks, and a credit card were taken from the victim, and stereo equipment was stripped from his truck. Lebron directed others present at the time to burn the victim's identification papers, to dispose of the victim's body, and to clean up the area where the victim had been shot.

Over the next several days, Lebron and some of the others used the victim's credit card, pawned his stereo equipment, and cashed his checks. An attempt was also made to burn the victim's truck. During this time, Lebron admitted to his former girlfriend, Danita Sullivan, that he had shot a man, that "he had killed someone." He also told his current girlfriend, Christina Charbonier, that he had killed a man for his truck. Shortly thereafter, Lebron left for New York City, the place where "Legz Diamond," a topless juice bar owned by his mother, was located.

The victim's body was later discovered in a rural area near the Walt Disney World property. Although the body was covered with a blanket and some shrubs, it was still visible from the road.

The medical examiner, Dr. Julia Martin, performed the autopsy on Oliver's body after it was discovered. She testified that the head was badly decomposed, and that the trauma to the head, which incorporated

799 So.2d 1002
the left portion of the lip, was consistent with a gunshot wound or other type of trauma, with no evidence of any abrasion around it. The entrance of the gunshot wound was to the right back of the head, slightly to the right of the midline and low in the back of the head. X-ray films showed the shot pellets traveling in a slightly upward fashion, right to left. There was a laceration of the scalp consistent with a shot at close or contact range. There were some bones missing from the back of the head. There were no bruises to the hands consistent with defensive wounds. The cause of death, which was instantaneous, was from a shotgun wound to the head

After Lebron left for New York, the others having knowledge of the event reported the murder to law enforcement officers. All of the witnesses claimed that they had followed Lebron's directions throughout the unfolding events because Lebron had threatened them, and they were afraid that he might do to one of them what he had done to Oliver. Initially, two of these individuals, Joe and Mark Tocci, did not tell the complete truth concerning the extent to which members of the group had been involved in the murder. During the course of the interview, however, the witnesses, who were questioned by the officers separately, eventually recounted the events of the murder and its aftermath consistently with their testimony at trial. All of the witnesses other than the Tocci brothers gave statements which were consistent throughout, and also consistent with what the police were able to verify with evidence and other statements (such as where the body was hidden; where the truck was burned; how the checks were cashed; and where Oliver's property was pawned).

At about the same time, a crime-scene investigation was being conducted by the Osceola County Sheriffs Department. Investigators observed several drops of what appeared to be dried blood in a big area at the southeast bedroom door of the home where the event allegedly occurred. They also discovered what appeared to be blood that had some foreign substance on it. The area was at least twelve to fourteen inches in diameter. A very strong stench of dried blood was detected immediately upon entering the residence.

Plastic balls were found inside the southeast bedroom, along with sponges and pellets. A spent Winchester twelve-gauge pheasant shotgun shell was found in a drawer in another bedroom. In a third bedroom, the police found four shotgun shells and the decedent's ring in a pair of sneakers.

Shortly after these eyewitness reports were made to law enforcement, Lebron, accompanied at the time by Stacie Kirk and Howard Kendall (who was involved in burning Oliver's truck), was apprehended in a car parked on the street outside of Legz Diamond, and arrested. Incident to the arrest, a search of the vehicle was conducted, and a day planner was recovered from the center console underneath the dashboard between the passenger seat and the driver's seat. Upon opening the planner, an identifying card with the name "Larry N. Oliver" was found. Detective Rodriguez retrieved the planner and secured it for safekeeping. He also found four shotgun shells in the center console.

After searching the vehicle, Detective Rodriguez returned to the precinct offices where Lebron was being held, and was present while Detective Thompson interrogated Lebron. Prior to speaking with Lebron, Thompson read him the standard Miranda rights from two forms. Lebron was also allowed to read the forms, and he signed or initialed the forms, indicating that he understood their content.

799 So.2d 1003
Rodriguez and Detective Delroco from the Manhattan precinct were also present. They began questioning Lebron at approximately 3:15 in the morning. Thompson obtained Lebron's statement, and it was recorded on a microcassette. This was received into evidence, and played for the jury. In his recorded statement, Lebron told the officer that he had stayed at the Gardenia house, sleeping on the couch, or in one of the rooms. He denied being at the house on the night of the murder, claiming to have gone to his former girlfriend's house that night. He repeatedly said he did not know Oliver, although, at the end of the statement, he said "it could have happened" that he met Oliver that night, but simply did not remember the meeting. He recalled that one of the others had pawned a stereo in Orlando, and admitted having gone to Kinko's with the others (where they had initially gathered on the night of the murder). He acknowledged having seen information about the missing red truck in a flyer, and having heard Oliver's parents make an appeal on the news. When questioned about whether he had noticed any blood spot at the house, or smelled any strange odors there, he said: "It always smelled like that. We always—everybody said it was Mary. That's what everybody always said, it was Mary."

After he was arrested, Lebron was charged with first-degree murder and armed robbery. While in jail, Lebron wrote letters to Christina, who did not respond to them. In the letters, which were written in his own hand, Lebron stated that he loved Christina, called her his fiancee, and referred to her testifying as an alibi witness for him. About a week before trial, however, Christina went to the Osceola County Sheriff's office with the information to which she testified (as a State's witness) at trial. She stated that Lebron threatened her at that time, so she had sought advice about what she should do. She decided to testify, because she "started thinking about if anything happened to, if anything happened to my daughter I would want somebody to come forward."

Use of Special Verdict Forms at Trial

When it came time for the jury's deliberation, special verdict forms were presented to the jurors. Pursuant to these forms, the jury was to determine whether Lebron was or was not guilty of premeditated murder or felony murder, first degree (Count I). If the jury found Lebron guilty of felony murder, it was to indicate whether Lebron had a firearm in his possession at the time the offense was committed. The jury was also to determine whether Lebron was or was not guilty of robbery (Count II). If the jury found find...

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  • Foster v. State, SC11–1761.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • January 31, 2014
    ...testimony in violation of Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150, 92 S.Ct. 763, 31 L.Ed.2d 104 (1972). We explained in Lebron v. State, 799 So.2d 997 (Fla.2001), that “[a] juror's nondisclosure of information during voir dire warrants a new trial if it is established that the information is ......
  • Keaton v. State
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    ...bias or prejudice against Keaton. Thus, Judge Stout did not abuse his discretion by denying Keaton's recusal motion. See Lebron v. State, 799 So.2d 997, 1019 (Fla. 2001) (holding, in a factually similar case, that the trial judge did not err by refusing to recuse himself based on ex parte c......
  • Foster v. State, SC11-1761
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • October 17, 2013
    ...to correct Juror Q's false testimony in violation of Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150 (1972). We explained in Lebron v. State, 799 So. 2d 997 (Fla. 2001), that "[a] juror's nondisclosure of information during voir dire warrants a new trial if it is established that the information is r......
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    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • May 1, 2008
    ...Jermaine Lebron was convicted of the 1995 first-degree murder and robbery with a firearm of Larry Neal Oliver. See Lebron v. State, 799 So.2d 997, 1004 (Fla. 2001). In affirming the convictions from the guilt phase, this Court detailed the facts surrounding the murder: According to eyewitne......
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