Urbin v. State, No. 89433

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM; KOGAN; WELLS; OVERTON; WELLS
Citation714 So.2d 411
Parties23 Fla. L. Weekly S257 Ryan J. URBIN, Appellant, v. STATE of Florida, Appellee.
Decision Date07 May 1998
Docket NumberNo. 89433

Page 411

714 So.2d 411
23 Fla. L. Weekly S257
Ryan J. URBIN, Appellant,
v.
STATE of Florida, Appellee.
No. 89433.
Supreme Court of Florida.
May 7, 1998.
Rehearing Denied July 15, 1998.

Page 413

Nancy A. Daniels, Public Defender, and Nada M. Carey, Assistant Public Defender, Second Judicial Circuit, Tallahassee, for Appellant.

Robert A. Butterworth, Attorney General, and Barbara J. Yates, Assistant Attorney General, Tallahassee, for Appellee.

PER CURIAM.

We have on appeal the judgment and sentence of the trial court imposing the death penalty upon appellant Ryan J. Urbin. We have jurisdiction. Art. V, § 3(b)(1), Fla. Const. For the reasons expressed below, we affirm Urbin's first-degree murder and robbery convictions but reverse his death sentence and remand for imposition of a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

FACTS

The victim in this case, Jason Hicks, was killed in the course of an armed robbery planned and carried out by three young men: Craig Flatebo, age eighteen, Jason Ambrose, age eighteen, and Urbin, age seventeen. Both Flatebo and Ambrose agreed to testify against Urbin in exchange for guilty pleas to second-degree murder and a waiver of the sentencing guidelines whereby each could receive sentences ranging from time served to two consecutive terms of life imprisonment. At the time of Urbin's trial, neither Flatebo nor Ambrose had yet been sentenced.

The trio went to Harley's Rack & Cue pool room in Jacksonville during the early morning hours of September 1, 1995. Ambrose chose Harley's because he knew people gambled there and would carry cash. Flatebo testified that the plan was to rob the first person who walked out the door. However, the first person got in his car before they could rob him, and although they followed him by car for several minutes, they broke off this effort and returned to Harley's. Upon returning to Harley's, Urbin went inside the pool room for several minutes. When he came back out, Ambrose removed from the trunk of their car a book bag containing guns, from which Urbin took a handgun. At the same time, Jason Hicks walked out of Harley's and Urbin followed with a gun in his hand and the book bag on his back. Flatebo and Ambrose then drove around the block behind Harley's, at which time they heard three shots. They next saw Urbin running towards them in the Burger King parking lot behind Harley's.

Ambrose testified that Urbin was excited and immediately said that "the victim bucked him and that he told him that he put the pistol to his head and was taking him out of the car and he put him on the ground and then he was taking the jewelry off the victim's neck and then he said he seen a lot of money in his pocket or it look like a lot of money and that when he went to go get it the victim kicked him in the leg and that's when he shot him and that's when he ran." Ambrose testified that Urbin was chosen by the trio to actually perpetrate the robbery "[b]ecause he had the nerve to do it." Ambrose stated that he took one gun out of the backpack and handed it to Urbin, not Flatebo, although Flatebo owned several guns in the backpack. He further related that Urbin had Hicks' wallet, and when Ambrose saw Hicks' driver's license, he realized that he knew him.

Flatebo testified that Ambrose stopped the car and picked up Urbin, who was "awful excited." Urbin kept repeating that the victim "shouldn't have bucked"; that is, he should not have resisted. Urbin told them he had followed the victim to his car and told him to remove his jewelry. After he complied, Urbin forced him to the ground and reached into his pocket, at which time the victim tried to kick Urbin's legs out from under him. Urbin said he shot the victim at that point because he bucked and because he had seen his face. Urbin showed his accomplices a gold necklace with a bulldog charm and a diamond ring that he took from Hicks. Flatebo admitted that he pawned some jewelry that Urbin gave him but denied that the jewelry was from Hicks. He also admitted calling Michelle Bennett and asking her to get rid of the murder weapon.

Steven Mann, a friend of Urbin's, testified that he heard the trio discuss a robbery at a party the night of the killing. Several days later, Mann, Urbin, Larry Motley, and Steve DeVore drove to Fort Myers to see DeVore's

Page 414

father. While there, Mann said that Urbin told him that he had killed Hicks because he resisted the robbery.

Raymond Graham testified that at approximately 2:45 a.m. on the night of the killing he heard three gunshots coming from the parking lot while he was inside Harley's. Immediately thereafter, he saw a white male running across the parking lot, and he identified that individual as Urbin.

The medical examiner testified that Hicks died from gunshot wounds. He also testified that the injuries to Hicks' face--"a laceration or tearing of the skin in the bridge of the nose, the right lower lip and also the left eyebrow, and over here we see an abrasion and bruise right there"--were consistent with having been struck about the face with a pistol.

Urbin testified and denied being the gunman. He testified that he was very intoxicated when they left the party and went to Harley's. They parked the car in the Burger King parking lot upon returning to Harley's the second time after the first intended victim left, at which time Ambrose and Flatebo exited the car and walked back to Harley's. Urbin alleged that Ambrose had issued himself a .38 pistol out of the backpack and gave Flatebo a black .357 magnum. Urbin claimed he did not receive a gun. Urbin alleged that he then heard three gunshots approximately four to five minutes later, and then Ambrose and Flatebo ran back to the car. He testified that Flatebo said he robbed the victim, and then shot him when he bucked. He also testified that Flatebo had the victim's wallet and jewelry. Urbin expressly denied shooting the victim and denied confessing to Mann. Urbin also denied that he was implicating Flatebo as revenge for Flatebo's testimony against Urbin in a subsequent home invasion case. 1 He further denied approaching several jail inmates and asking them to testify that Flatebo had confessed to them that he had committed the murder. Subsequently, the State presented the testimony of three jail inmates that Urbin had asked them to lie by testifying that Flatebo confessed to the killing.

PENALTY PHASE

Urbin was found guilty by the jury of first-degree murder. During the penalty phase, the state attorney who had prosecuted Urbin for the later home invasion testified that Urbin was convicted of armed robbery, armed burglary, and armed kidnaping in that case.

In the defense case, Helene Urbin testified at length on her son's behalf and described his life to date. She left Urbin's father when Urbin was six months old because of his physical, verbal, and substance abuse. She spent two years in prison for trafficking in cocaine, during which time Urbin was left alone much of the time, although ostensibly cared for by his older brother and a friend. Ms. Urbin also blamed Steve Mann for many of Urbin's problems, including his drug abuse and criminal activities. Urbin testified that his home life was "okay" until his mother was imprisoned. He admitted to his drug and alcohol abuse and testified that he was drinking and snorting cocaine the night of the murder.

Dr. Ernest Miller, a psychiatrist, testified that he had examined Urbin and analyzed a lengthy and detailed account by Urbin's mother describing Urbin's upbringing and problems. Noting that Urbin lacked a father figure or male role model, he observed that Urbin's role models were dissocial, criminal peers. Dr. Miller testified that Urbin suffered from anxiety, depression, and substance abuse disorder and was addicted to both drugs, in particular powder cocaine and LSD, and alcohol. He also explained that drug addiction results in impulsivity, that is, the drug abuser does only what he must do to perpetuate and maintain access to the drug supply. Dr. Miller opined that impulsivity became the driving and dominant feature of Urbin's behavior. He also testified that Urbin knew right from wrong, was not insane at the time of the offense, and was not

Page 415

incapable of premeditation. However, based on Urbin's self-reporting and his mother's letter detailing his substance abuse history, Dr. Miller ventured that the use of drugs and alcohol on the night of the homicide would have impaired Urbin's thought processes in instantly reacting to Hicks' physical resistance to the robbery.

The jury recommended a death sentence and the trial court sentenced Urbin to death for the murder and to 26.64 years in prison for the robbery. 2

APPEAL

Urbin does not challenge on appeal the sufficiency of the evidence to support his conviction for first-degree murder. Nevertheless, our review of the record confirms that there was sufficient evidence to support the first-degree murder conviction as well as the conviction for robbery.

Urbin raises three claims of error on appeal as to the death sentence. The claims are: (1) the trial court erred in finding the avoid arrest aggravator; (2) Urbin's death sentence is disproportional; and (3) the prosecutor's penalty phase closing argument rendered the entire sentencing proceeding fundamentally unfair.

Murder Committed for Purpose of Avoiding or Preventing a Lawful Arrest

In Riley v. State, 366 So.2d 19 (Fla.1978), we first extended application of the aggravator of a murder committed for the purpose of avoiding or preventing a lawful arrest beyond those involving law enforcement personnel, to include other capital murders specifically involving witness elimination. In so doing, we cautioned that "[p]roof of the requisite intent to avoid arrest and detection must be very strong," in such cases, id. at 22, to sustain the avoid arrest aggravator as it pertains to witness elimination. Shortly thereafter, we reaffirmed Riley and...

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  • Rigterink v. State , No. SC05–2162.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • 16 juin 2011
    ...inquiry, the Court must consider the totality of circumstances and compare the given case with other capital cases. See Urbin v. State, 714 So.2d 411, 417 (Fla.1998). This is not a mere numbers game; rather, it is a holistic comparison of the circumstances of the current case with those of ......
  • State v. Davis, No. 80209-2
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • 20 septembre 2012
    ...rather "excuse[s]." Id. at 3524. The defense did not object to any of these remarks. Davis bases much of his argument on Urbin v. State, 714 So. 2d 411, 421, 422 n.14 (Fla. 1998), a case in which the Florida Supreme Court held that a prosecutor committed misconduct during his closing argume......
  • Bradley v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., Case No. 3:10-cv-1078-J-32JRK
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
    • 12 mars 2014
    ...Cooper v. State, 739 So.2d 82, 85 (Fla. 1999), thereby providing for uniformity in the application of the sentence. See Urbin v. State, 714 So.2d 411, 416-17 (Fla. 1998). Proportionality review, however, is more than a mere quantitative comparison between the number of aggravating and mitig......
  • Ramirez v. State, No. 89,377
    • United States
    • Florida Supreme Court
    • 8 juillet 1999
    ...emotional and intellectual immaturity, but also with his unrebutted history of "huffing."12 See Mahn, 714 So.2d at 400; Urbin v. State, 714 So.2d 411, 418 (Fla.1998). Therefore, we find that the trial court abused its discretion in giving "little weight" to the defendant's age at the time o......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
266 cases
  • State v. Davis, No. 80209-2
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • 20 septembre 2012
    ...rather "excuse[s]." Id. at 3524. The defense did not object to any of these remarks. Davis bases much of his argument on Urbin v. State, 714 So. 2d 411, 421, 422 n.14 (Fla. 1998), a case in which the Florida Supreme Court held that a prosecutor committed misconduct during his closing argume......
  • Bradley v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., Case No. 3:10-cv-1078-J-32JRK
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
    • 12 mars 2014
    ...Cooper v. State, 739 So.2d 82, 85 (Fla. 1999), thereby providing for uniformity in the application of the sentence. See Urbin v. State, 714 So.2d 411, 416-17 (Fla. 1998). Proportionality review, however, is more than a mere quantitative comparison between the number of aggravating and mitig......
  • Ramirez v. State, No. 89,377
    • United States
    • Florida Supreme Court
    • 8 juillet 1999
    ...emotional and intellectual immaturity, but also with his unrebutted history of "huffing."12 See Mahn, 714 So.2d at 400; Urbin v. State, 714 So.2d 411, 418 (Fla.1998). Therefore, we find that the trial court abused its discretion in giving "little weight" to the defendant's age at the time o......
  • Downs v. Moore, No. SC00-2186.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • 26 septembre 2001
    ...been obtained without the assistance of the alleged error.'" McDonald v. State, 743 So.2d 501, 505 (Fla.1999) (quoting Urbin v. State, 714 So.2d 411, 418 n. 8 Here, however, the underlying claim does not appear to constitute error, much less fundamental error. Downs argues that the prosecut......
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