Poole v. State

Citation151 So.3d 402
Decision Date26 June 2014
Docket NumberNo. SC11–1846.,SC11–1846.
PartiesMark Anthony POOLE, Appellant, v. STATE of Florida, Appellee.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida

James Marion Moorman, Public Defender, and Steven L. Bolotin, Assistant Public Defender, Bartow, FL, for Appellant.

Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, FL, and Scott Andrew Browne, Assistant Attorney General, Tampa, FL, for Appellee.

Opinion

PER CURIAM.

Mark Anthony Poole was convicted of the murder of Noah Scott, attempted first-degree murder of Loretta White1 , armed burglary, sexual battery of Loretta White, and armed robbery. Poole v. State, 997 So.2d 382, 387 (Fla.2008). Following the penalty phase, the jury recommended that Poole be sentenced to death by a vote of twelve to zero, and the judge followed the jury's recommendation. Id. at 388. On direct appeal, based on the cumulative effect of the errors made during the penalty phase of the trial, this Court vacated Poole's sentence of death and remanded the case for a new penalty phase. Id. at 394. On remand, following the new penalty phase, the jury recommended death by a vote of eleven to one, and the trial court followed the jury's recommendation. Poole now appeals his resentencing. We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 3(b)(1), Fla. Const. For the reasons outlined below, this Court affirms the trial court's resentencing of Poole to death.

Facts and Procedural History
On the evening of October 12, 2001, after playing some video games in the bedroom of their mobile home, Noah Scott and Loretta White went to bed sometime between 11:30 p.m. and 12 a.m. Later during the night, White woke up with a pillow over her face and Poole sitting on top of her. Poole began to rape and sexually assault her as she begged Poole not to hurt her because she was pregnant. As White struggled and resisted, Poole repeatedly struck her with a tire iron. She put her hand up to protect her head, and one of her fingers and part of another finger were severed by the tire iron. While repeatedly striking White, Poole asked her where the money was. During this attack on White, Scott attempted to stop Poole, but was also repeatedly struck with the tire iron. As Scott struggled to defend White, Poole continued to strike Scott in the head until Scott died of blunt force head trauma. At some point after the attack, Poole left the bedroom and White was able to get off the bed and put on clothes but she passed out before leaving the bedroom. Poole came back in the bedroom and touched her vaginal area and said “thank you.” White was in and out of consciousness for the rest of the night. She was next aware of the time around 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. when her alarm went off.
When her alarm went off, White retrieved her cell phone and called 911. Shortly thereafter, police officers were dispatched to the home. They found Scott unconscious in the bedroom and White severely injured in the hallway by the bedroom. White suffered a concussion and multiple face and head wounds and was missing part of her fingers. Scott was pronounced dead at the scene. Evidence at the crime scene and in the surrounding area linked Poole to the crimes. Several witnesses told police officers that they saw Poole or a man matching Poole's description near the victims' trailer on the night of the crimes. Stanley Carter stated that when he went to the trailer park around 11:30 that night, he noticed a black male walking towards the victims' trailer. Carter's observations were consistent with that of Dawn Brisendine, who knew Poole and saw him walking towards the victims' trailer around 11:30 p.m. Pamela Johnson, Poole's live-in girlfriend, testified that on that evening, Poole left his house sometime in the evening and did not return until 4:50 a.m.
Poole was also identified as the person selling video game systems owned by Scott and stolen during the crime. Ventura Rico, who lived in the same trailer park as the victims, testified that on that night, while he was home with his cousin's girlfriend, Melissa Nixon, a black male came to his trailer and offered to sell him some video game systems. Rico agreed to buy them for $50, at which point the black male handed him a plastic trash bag. During this exchange, Nixon got a good look at the man and later identified Poole when the police showed her several photographs. Nixon testified that the next morning, when her son was going through the trash bag, he noticed that one of the systems had blood on it.
Pamela Johnson also testified that on the same morning, she found a game controller at the doorstep of Poole's house, she handed it to Poole, and Poole put it in his nightstand. She indicated that she had never seen that game controller before that morning and did not know what it would be used for because neither she nor Poole owned any video game systems. During the search of Poole's residence, the police retrieved this controller. In addition, the police retrieved a blue Tommy Hilfiger polo shirt and a pair of Poole's Van shoes, shoes Poole said he had been wearing on the night of the crimes. A DNA analysis confirmed that the blood found on the Sega Genesis box, Super Nintendo, Sega Dreamcast box and controller matched the DNA profile of Scott. Also, a stain found on the left sleeve of Poole's blue polo shirt matched White's blood type. The testing of a vaginal swab also confirmed that the semen in White was that of Poole. A footwear examination revealed that one of the two footwear impressions found on a notebook in the victims' trailer matched Poole's left Van shoe. The tire iron used in the crimes was found underneath a motor home located near the victims' trailer. A DNA analysis determined that the blood found on this tire iron matched Scott's DNA profile.
Based on this evidence, the jury returned a verdict finding Poole guilty on all charges, including first-degree murder. Following the penalty phase, the jury recommended death by a vote of twelve to zero. The trial court followed the jury's recommendation and sentenced Poole to death. The trial court found two statutory aggravating circumstances: (1) the defendant was previously convicted of another capital felony or of a felony involving the use or threat of violence to the person, and (2) the murder was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel. The court also found three statutory mitigators and numerous nonstatutory mitigators. The statutory mitigators were: (1) the crime for which Poole was to be sentenced was committed while he was under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance (moderate weight); (2) Poole's capacity to conform his conduct to the requirements of law was substantially impaired (moderate weight); and (3) Poole had no significant history of prior criminal activity (little weight). The nonstatutory mitigators were: (1) Poole is of borderline intelligence (some weight); (2) Poole received a head injury, which created dementia (little weight); (3) Poole's age at the time of the crime linked with mental deficiency and lack of serious criminal history (moderate weight); (4) Poole dropped out of school due to his low intelligence and learning disabilities (little weight); (5) Poole lost Mr. Bryant, his “best friend, father figure, employer,” and that had an emotional effect on Poole and led to his drug use (some weight); (6) Poole sought help for his drug problem in the past (little weight); (7) Poole had an alcohol abuse problem at the time of the crime (little weight); (8) Poole had a drug abuse problem at the time of the crime (little weight); (9) Poole does not have antisocial personality disorder nor is he psychopathic (some weight); (10) Poole has and can continue a relationship with his son (minimum weight); (11) Poole has a strong work ethic (little weight); (12) Poole has a close relationship with his family (moderate weight); (13) Poole is a religious person (little weight); and (14) the murder and rape were impulsive excessive acts, not premeditated acts (little weight). The trial court determined that these mitigating factors did not outweigh the aggravating circumstances and, as a result, the trial court sentenced Poole to death on the count of first-degree murder. The trial court also sentenced Poole to consecutive life sentences for the attempted first-degree murder of Loretta White, armed burglary, sexual battery of Loretta White, and armed robbery.
[On direct] appeal, Poole raise[d] four issues: (1) whether the trial court abused its discretion in denying Poole's motion for mistrial when the prosecutor repeatedly commented during closing argument on Poole's failure to testify at trial and on his silence after his arrest; (2) whether the prosecutor violated Poole's right to a fair penalty phase proceeding by cross-examining defense witnesses about the unproven prior arrests, the unproven content of a tattoo, and the lack of remorse; (3) whether the prosecutor violated Poole's right to a fair penalty phase proceeding by misleading the jurors about their responsibilities in recommending a sentence; and (4) whether Florida's death penalty statute violates the Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury.

Id. at 387–89 (footnote omitted). Based on the cumulative effect of the errors made during the penalty phase of the trial, this Court vacated Poole's death sentence and remanded the case for a new penalty phase. Id. at 394.

Resentencing

On remand, following the new penalty phase, the jury recommended death by a vote of eleven to one. Following a Spencer2 hearing, the trial court followed the jury's recommendation and sentenced Poole to death. The trial court found four aggravating circumstances: (1) the contemporaneous conviction for the attempted murder of Loretta White (very great weight); (2) capital felony occurred during the commission of burglary, robbery and sexual battery (great weight); (3) capital felony was committed for financial gain (merged with robbery, but not merged with burglary or sexual battery) (less than...

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