Mosley v. State

Decision Date22 December 2016
Docket NumberNo. SC14–436,No. SC14–2108,SC14–436,SC14–2108
Citation209 So.3d 1248
Parties John F. MOSLEY, Appellant, v. STATE of Florida, Appellee. John F. Mosley, Petitioner, v. Julie L. Jones, etc., Respondent.
CourtFlorida Supreme Court

Richard Adam Sichta, Susanne Kaye Sichta, and Joseph Stewart Hamrick of The Sichta Firm, LLC, Jacksonville, Florida, for Appellant/Petitioner

Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, and Carine L. Mitz, Assistant Attorney General, Tallahassee, Florida, for Appellee/Respondent


John F. Mosley was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder for the April 2004 deaths of his girlfriend, Lynda Wilkes, and their infant son, Jay–Quan Mosley. He received a sentence of death for the murder of his son, Jay–Quan, and a sentence of life imprisonment for the murder of Wilkes. This Court affirmed his convictions and sentence of death. Mosley v. State , 46 So.3d 510 (Fla. 2009).

Mosley now appeals the denial of his initial motion for postconviction relief, filed pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.851, and simultaneously 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 postconviction court's denial of relief for a new trial but grant Mosley a new penalty phase based on the United States Supreme Court's decision in Hurst v. Florida (Hurst v. Florida ), ––– U.S. ––––, 136 S.Ct. 616, 193 L.Ed.2d 504 (2016), and our decision in Hurst v. State (Hurst ), 202 So.3d 40 (Fla. 2016).


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

Although Mosley was married, he had a number of romantic relationships with other women in the Jacksonville area, including Lynda Wilkes. Because Wilkes was receiving Medicaid benefits for their son, Jay–Quan, she was required to participate in a proceeding to establish paternity. After Mosley failed to answer the petition to determine paternity, a default judgment was entered against him, and he was ordered to pay $35 a week in child support, with an additional $5 a week for retroactive child support. On March 12, 2004, Mosley filed a motion to have the final judgment set aside. A hearing on this motion was set for May 3, 2004.
Around this time period, Mosley, who was thirty-nine, met Bernard Griffin, who was fifteen, and asked Griffin if he would be willing to kill a baby. During his attempts to convince Griffin to kill the child, Mosley pointed out Wilkes's house and gave him a sketch of the house's layout, but Griffin refused.
On April 21, 2004, Mosley went to see Wilkes at her house in Jacksonville and asked Wilkes to meet him the next day at J.C. Penney so he could take Jay–Quan shopping. On April 22, 2004, Wilkes took her other children to school. That afternoon, she and Jay–Quan met Mosley at J.C. Penney, and together they left in Mosley's vehicle, a burgundy Suburban. Mosley picked up Griffin, and eventually drove to a deserted dirt road in another part of Jacksonville. Mosley asked Wilkes to get out and pretended to look for something in the seat. He then turned and strangled Wilkes, who futilely attempted to defend herself. After she stopped moving, Mosley took a plastic shopping bag from the back of the vehicle, put it over Wilkes's head, and put her body in the back of the Suburban. Mosley put a crying Jay–Quan in another garbage bag, tied it, and also placed it in the back of his vehicle. He used a blue tarp to cover Wilkes's body and the bag with the baby in it. Initially, Griffin heard the baby crying, but after a while, the baby stopped. Mosley dropped Griffin off and went to work.
Later that evening, while he was still at work, another of Mosley's girlfriends, Jamila Jones, called and asked him for some gas money. He agreed that he would give her some money before she needed to leave for work the next day. That evening, Mosley clocked out of work at 11:01, and sometime after that picked up Griffin again in his Suburban. Griffin noticed that the vehicle smelled bad. Mosley drove out of Jacksonville towards Waldo, which was approximately sixty miles from Jacksonville. A few miles south of Waldo, Mosley turned and went down a number of dirt roads, eventually finding a suitable spot to dispose of Wilkes's body. After Griffin refused to participate, Mosley pulled Wilkes to a clearing by himself, poured lighter fluid over her body, and then tossed a burning rag on her body. As the body began to burn, Mosley and Griffin ran to the vehicle and left. Mosley then drove approximately forty miles further south to Ocala and dumped the trash bag with the baby in a dumpster behind a Winn–Dixie store. He also threw his shoes and gloves into the dumpster. On the way back to Jacksonville, Mosley gave Griffin $100.
Once they arrived in Jacksonville, it was daylight. After asking Griffin to give him back $20, Mosley stopped by Jones's apartment at approximately six that morning and gave her $20. Jones asked Mosley why he did not answer his cell phone when she tried to call him the previous evening, and Mosley replied that he was "doing something for his mom." Although Mosley was supposed to be back at work at six that same morning, he called in and said that he would be late because he did not get any sleep that night. He finally arrived at work at 12:49 p.m. on April 23.
The victim's family knew something was wrong when Wilkes failed to pick up her children from school on the afternoon of April 22. The family called the police, reported Wilkes as missing, and began a search for her and Jay–Quan immediately. During the evening hours of April 22, they found her car abandoned at the J.C. Penney's parking lot.
On the morning after her disappearance (April 23), one of Wilkes's daughters (Naquita) and a family friend saw Mosley driving his vehicle and caught up to him while he was stopped at a traffic light. They told Mosley that Wilkes was missing. Initially, Mosley denied seeing her. After Naquita asked Mosley whether he failed to show up at J.C. Penney the previous day, Mosley admitted that he saw Wilkes the day before but claimed that he had dropped her off at her car. They asked Mosley if he could pull over, but he refused and drove away.
On Saturday, April 24, Mosley changed all four tires on the Suburban, despite the fact that the tires could be driven for a few more thousand miles. Mosley was adamant that the mechanic load his old tires into his vehicle.
During the investigation into Wilkes's disappearance, the police attempted to contact Mosley numerous times, trying to arrange for an in-person interview. Mosley never met with any police officer until after he was taken into custody, but he did talk to numerous officers over the phone. He claimed that he and Wilkes met at the J.C. Penney's parking lot on April 22 and left to see some nearby houses that Wilkes was considering renting. He further claimed that he dropped her off back at her car around one that afternoon.
Days after the murder, after seeing news reports about the missing woman and baby, Griffin told his mother that he knew something about the case. He then talked to the police and eventually led police to the locations where Mosley killed Wilkes, where he burned her remains, and where he dumped the baby. Griffin was subsequently convicted of two counts of being an accessory after the fact for his involvement in the murders.
Based on Griffin's assistance, the police were able to recover Wilkes's remains, which were badly burned. Wilkes's watch, which was found with the burned body, stopped at 2:29. Mosley's cellular phone records established that at 2:24 a.m., on April 23, an outgoing call was made from Mosley's cellular phone, and the cellular antenna used for this call was close to where Wilkes's body was found. Despite a diligent search for the baby's body, the baby's body was never recovered.
Wilkes's DNA was found on a carpet sample from the Suburban. The medical examiner testified that after a person was strangled to death, the body could exude pinkish blood from the nose and mouth.
After Mosley was arrested, he wrote Jones a letter, asking her to tell the police that he was alone when he came to her house on April 23 at 6:08 a.m. He also told her, "It is legal and okay to change your statement in court if you let the jury know the police pressured and coerced you to say something before they took the statement and during the statement." Mosley also talked to his wife, Carolyn Mosley, asking her to "remember" that his mother stayed over that night and that he came home from work that night at 11:30. He told his wife that he needed her, their daughters, and his mother to write notarized statements that he arrived home that night at 11:30 and was there all night.
During his defense at trial, Mosley presented evidence through his wife and daughters that he was at home the night that Griffin claimed they disposed of the bodies. Mosley's doctor also testified that he was treating Mosley for some injuries sustained in a car accident. While the doctor discussed Mosley's injuries in depth, he also admitted that the injuries would not have made it impossible for Mosley to lift a body.

Mosley , 46 So.3d at 514–16 (footnotes omitted). The jury convicted Mosley of two counts of first-degree murder.

Following the penalty phase, the jury recommended a life sentence for the murder of Lynda Wilkes and, by a vote of eight to four, recommended a sentence of death for the murder of Jay–Quan Mosley. The court held a Spencer 1 hearing and, after independently weighing the aggravating factors and mitigating circumstances, agreed with the jury's recommendation of death for the murder of Jay–Quan. In imposing the death sentence for the murder of Jay–Quan, the trial court found four aggravators applied, each of which was given great weight: (1) the victim of the capital felony was under twelve years of age; (2) the murder was cold, calculated, and premeditated (CCP); (3) the murder was committed for pecuniary gain; and (4) the...

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