McCrae v. State

Decision Date15 September 1983
Docket NumberNo. 63797,63797
Citation437 So.2d 1388
PartiesJames Curtis McCRAE, Appellant, v. STATE of Florida, Appellee.
CourtFlorida Supreme Court

Robert H. Dillinger of Akerson, Swisher, Dillinger & Brett, St. Petersburg, for appellant.

Jim Smith, Atty. Gen., and Peggy A. Quince, Asst. Atty. Gen., Tampa, for appellee.


This cause is before the Court on appeal from an order denying James McCrae's motion for post-conviction relief filed pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.850. Appellant is a state prisoner under sentence of death. On June 13, 1983, we issued an order staying execution of sentence.

Appellant was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. He appealed, and during the pendency of his appeal this Court relinquished jurisdiction to allow him to file a motion to vacate judgment and sentence in the trial court under Rule 3.850. The trial court denied relief. Appellate jurisdiction of the judgment and sentence then resumed in this Court and McCrae also invoked appellate review of the denial of post-conviction relief. We considered both appeals and issued an opinion affirming both the initial judgment and sentence and the order denying the motion to vacate. McCrae v. State, 395 So.2d 1145 (Fla.1980), cert. denied, 454 U.S. 1041, 102 S.Ct. 583, 70 L.Ed.2d 486 (1981). McCrae later filed a petition for habeas corpus with this Court and we denied relief. McCrae v. Wainwright, 422 So.2d 824 (Fla.1982).

The motion to vacate or set aside judgment and sentence before us now on appeal raised numerous grounds. The court in which appellant was convicted and sentenced denied the motion in a brief order stating as grounds that "a prior motion pursuant to this Rule was argued and denied by the sentencing court" and that the court was "not required to entertain a successive motion for similar relief on behalf of the same prisoner." It is unclear to us whether the basis of the court's summary denial was that the issues raised in appellant's motion had been adjudicated adversely to him in the previous post-conviction proceeding or simply that he had previously filed an unsuccessful motion for post-conviction relief.

Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.850 provides that a prisoner under sentence of a Florida court who claims that his conviction or sentence was unconstitutionally imposed, or was imposed by a court without jurisdiction, or that the sentence exceeds legal limits, or that his plea was involuntary, or that "the judgment or sentence is otherwise subject to collateral attack," may file a motion in the court in which the judgment was entered or the sentence was imposed, seeking "to vacate, set aside or correct the judgment or sentence." The second paragraph of Rule 3.850 begins by providing: "A motion for such relief may be made at any time." A subsequent paragraph of the Rule provides in part: "The sentencing court shall not be required to entertain a second or successive motion for similar relief on behalf of the same prisoner."

The provision stating that successive motions for "similar relief" need not be entertained seems to suggest that after a first Rule 3.850 motion has been denied, subsequent motions to vacate may be summarily dismissed. This inference, however, has been rejected by judicial interpretation based upon the intended purposes and scope of the post-conviction remedy under Rule 3.850.

The purpose of the Rule 3.850 motion is to provide a means of inquiry into the alleged constitutional infirmity of a judgment or sentence, not to review ordinary trial errors cognizable by means of a direct appeal. Ratliff v. State, 256 So.2d 262 (Fla. 1st DCA 1972). The motion procedure is neither a second appeal nor a substitute for appeal. Matters which were raised on appeal and decided adversely to the movant are not cognizable by motion under Rule 3.850. E.g., Christopher v. State, 416 So.2d 450 (Fla.1982); Dismuke v. State, 388 So.2d 1324 (Fla. 5th DCA 1980); Faulkner v. State, 226 So.2d 441 (Fla. 2d DCA 1969). Furthermore, any matters which could have been presented on appeal are similarly held to be foreclosed from consideration by motion under the Rule. E.g., Demps v. State, 416 So.2d 808 (Fla.1982); State v. Jackson, 414 So.2d 281 (Fla. 4th DCA 1982); Battle v. State, 388 So.2d 1323 (Fla. 5th DCA 1980); Tyner v. State, 363 So.2d 1165 (Fla. 1st DCA 1978); Koedatich v. State, 287 So.2d 738 (Fla. 3d DCA 1974); Yanks v. State, 273 So.2d 401 (Fla. 3d DCA 1973), cert. denied, 277 So.2d 288 (Fla.1973); McGriff v. State, 259 So.2d 508 (Fla. 3d DCA 1972), cert. denied, 263 So.2d 829 (Fla.1972); Austin v. State, 160 So.2d 730 (Fla. 2d DCA 1964). Therefore, a Rule 3.850 motion based upon grounds which either were or could have been raised as issues on appeal may be summarily denied. E.g., Foster v. State, 400 So.2d 1 (Fla.1981); Edwards v. State, 364 So.2d 119 (Fla. 1st DCA 1978); Jenkins v. State, 267 So.2d 886 (Fla. 2d DCA 1972).

In addition to issues that were raised on appeal and those which could have been raised, which are not proper grounds, a motion under the Rule may also be summarily denied when it is based on grounds that have been raised in prior post-conviction motions under the Rule and have been decided adversely to the movant on their merits. Pitts v. Turner, 362 So.2d 134 (Fla. 4th DCA 1978); Neal v. State, 349 So.2d 844 (Fla. 2d DCA 1977); Mitchell v. State, 203 So.2d 676 (Fla. 1st DCA 1967), cert. denied, 210 So.2d 224 (Fla.), cert. denied, 392 U.S. 913, 88 S.Ct. 2073, 20 L.Ed.2d 1371 (1968); Coleman v. State, 183 So.2d 714 (Fla. 1st DCA 1966). A "second or successive motion for similar relief," as used in Rule 3.850 has thus been interpreted to mean a motion stating substantially the same grounds as a previous motion attacking the same conviction or sentence under the Rule. Furthermore, this restriction against successive motions on the same grounds is applied only when the grounds raised were previously adjudicated on their merits, and not where the previous motion was summarily denied or dismissed for legal insufficiency. See, e.g., Flores v. Wainwright, 240 So.2d 816 (Fla. 2d DCA 1970); Reynolds v. State, 224 So.2d 769 (Fla. 2d DCA 1969), cert. discharged, 238 So.2d 598 (Fla.1970); Taylor v. State, 181 So.2d 589 (Fla. 4th DCA 1965).

On the other hand, a second or successive motion by the same prisoner attacking the same judgment or sentence but stating substantially different legal grounds is permitted under the Rule and should not be summarily dismissed solely on the basis that the prisoner has previously filed another Rule 3.850 motion. See Palmer v. State, 273 So.2d 135 (Fla. 3d DCA 1973); Roberts v. State, 250 So.2d 918 (Fla. 2d DCA 1971); Piehl v. State, 173 So.2d 723 (Fla. 1st DCA 1965), quashed on other grounds, 184 So.2d 417 (Fla.1966); Archer v. State, 166 So.2d 163 (Fla. 2d DCA 1964).

As the foregoing discussion demonstrates, if the summary denial in the instant case was based upon a determination that the issues raised by the motion either were or could have been presented by direct appeal, or that they were argued in the previous Rule 3.850 proceeding and decided on their merits, then the order denying relief was proper. If, on the other hand, the denial of the motion was based on the supposition that the mere filing of a previous motion for post-conviction relief precluded any consideration of a second or successive motion, then the court's order was error. Since the precise basis of the order denying the motion is not clear to us, it is necessary to remand the case to the circuit court for a clarifying statement.

This cause is remanded to the lower court for a more definite statement of the reasons for its order or for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

It is so ordered.


ALDERMAN, C.J., concurs in result only with an opinion.

ADKINS and EHRLICH, JJ., dissent.

ALDERMAN, Chief Justice, concurring in result only.

Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.850 provides in part:

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