Strawn v. State

CourtCourt of Appeal of Florida (US)
Citation16 Fla. L. Weekly 770,576 So.2d 877
Docket NumberNo. 89-2205,89-2205
Parties16 Fla. L. Weekly 770 William John STRAWN, Jr., Appellant, v. STATE of Florida, Appellee.
Decision Date21 March 1991

Page 877

576 So.2d 877
16 Fla. L. Weekly 770
William John STRAWN, Jr., Appellant,
STATE of Florida, Appellee.
No. 89-2205.
District Court of Appeal of Florida,
Fifth District.
March 21, 1991.

James B. Gibson, Public Defender, and Kenneth Witts, Asst. Public Defender, Daytona Beach, for appellant.

Robert A. Butterworth, Atty. Gen., Tallahassee, and Belle B. Turner, Asst. Atty. Gen., Daytona Beach, for appellee.

Page 878


William John Strawn, Jr., appeals the imposition of departure sentences in four cases, in each of which he was charged with robbery with a firearm and in which he pled nolo contendere. Although the state recommended a guidelines sentence with at least two minimum mandatory terms, the court departed and imposed four consecutive terms of twenty-five years each with four consecutive three-year mandatory terms followed by life probation. We vacate the sentences and remand for resentencing.

The facts of this case are peculiar in that they show Strawn led an exemplary life prior to the commission of the crimes. He was fifty-four years of age, a twenty-year resident of Hillsborough County, and a twenty-year employee of the community college and director of student affairs. Married since 1955, he was the father of three grown children. He was active in community affairs, a member of the Gideons, and a volunteer marriage counselor. He attended church every Sunday and had never before been charged with a crime. Unfortunately, Strawn had a long history of illness due to seizure activity of the brain, in his case an illness that was physical and demonstrable. A court-appointed psychiatrist rendered an opinion that Strawn was not criminally responsible for his actions.

His life was changed on May 1, 1987, when he committed a bank robbery during which he wore a stocking mask, brandished a lever-action rifle, and ordered all present to lie on the floor. He committed two more bank robberies on September 7, 1987, and May 16, 1988. He made no death threats in the first two robberies, but in the third robbery he threatened to kill the teller if she included dye packs in the cash bag. On November 14, 1988, Strawn committed his fourth and final robbery using the same method and threat as in the third robbery, but now using a pistol. This time he was recognized through a BOLO description and was arrested.

Strawn moved for a continuance of his trial so that his medical condition could be evaluated. Following the evaluation, the court appointed experts to determine his competency for sentencing purposes. The experts found him competent but supported his assertion of a long-standing serious illness. One of the experts found that Strawn was not criminally responsible and that he was in a fugue-like dissociative state at the time of the robberies. Strawn stated to the psychiatrist that, following the first three robberies, he "woke up" in his car, discovered the money, and either burned it or threw it away. He did remember the last robbery but indicated he "was like a spectator." The expert found that Strawn's medical history was consistent with this description of a dissociative state.

The two issues presented for consideration are whether the trial court correctly departed from the guidelines and whether the lengthy sentences constituted cruel and unusual punishment. The trial court gave several reasons for the departure sentence:


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1 cases
  • Barr v. State, 94-1152
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • May 12, 1995 cannot be determined if this allegation was supported by the record. Indeed, as the fifth district stated in Strawn v. State, 576 So.2d 877, 879 (Fla. 5th DCA 1991), while placement of a substantial number of bystanders at risk during the commission of a robbery constitutes a valid reaso......

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