Walls v. State

Citation641 So.2d 381
Decision Date31 August 1994
Docket NumberNo. 80364.,80364.
PartiesFrank A. WALLS, Appellant, v. STATE of Florida, Appellee.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida

641 So.2d 381

Frank A. WALLS, Appellant,
STATE of Florida, Appellee.

No. 80364.

Supreme Court of Florida.

July 7, 1994.

Rehearing Denied August 31, 1994.

641 So.2d 382


641 So.2d 383


641 So.2d 384

Nancy A. Daniels, Public Defender and W.C. McLain, Asst. Public Defender, Tallahassee, for appellant.

Robert A. Butterworth, Atty. Gen. and Mark C. Menser, Asst. Atty. Gen., Tallahassee, for appellee.

KOGAN, Justice.

We have on appeal the judgment and sentence of the trial court imposing the death penalty upon Frank A. Walls. We have jurisdiction. Art. V, § 3(b)(1), Fla. Const.

During the early morning hours of July 22, 1987, in Okaloosa County, a neighbor heard loud noises coming from the mobile home of the victims, Edward Alger and Ann Peterson. When Alger failed to report for duty at Eglin Air Force Base, where he worked, his superior officer Sergeant John Calloway went to Alger's home. The body of a nude female was discovered in the front bedroom. Calloway left immediately to telephone police.

When investigators arrived, they identified the woman as Peterson. She was lying face down on the floor of the front bedroom, shot twice in the head. Alger's nude body was found on the floor of the second bedroom. His feet were tied with a curtain cord and a piece of the same cord was tied to his left wrist. Alger had been shot three times and his throat cut.

A warrant was obtained to search the mobile home where Walls lived with his roommate. The warrant was issued based primarily on information given to the investigators by Walls' former roommate, who lived in the mobile home adjacent to that of the victims. A number of items were seized during the search that were linked to the crime scene. Walls was charged with ten offenses. Some of these charges were dismissed or reduced to lesser offenses following Walls' motion for judgment of acquittal at the conclusion of the trial.

Following his arrest, Walls gave a statement to the investigators detailing his involvement in the murders. In this confession, Walls indicated that he deliberately woke up the two victims by knocking over a fan after entering the house to commit a burglary. Then he forced Alger to lie on the floor and made Peterson tie him up so that his hands were "behind the back, ankles shackled." He next forced Peterson to lie on the floor so he could tie her up in the same manner.

Walls stated that Alger later got loose from his bindings and attacked Walls. During the fight, Walls tackled Alger, forced him to the floor, and "caught Alger across the

641 So.2d 385
throat with the knife." Alger continued struggling with Walls and succeeded in biting him on the leg. At this point, Walls apparently dropped his knife. Walls then pulled out his gun and shot Alger several times in the head

Walls returned to Peterson. He found her "laying in there crying and everything, asked — asked me some questions." Walls said he could not understand what she was saying, so he removed her gag. She asked if Alger was all right. Walls said:

I told her no. I told her what was going on, and I said, "I came in here, and I didn't want to hurt none of y'all. I didn't want to hurt you, but he attacked my ass, and things just happened.

Walls then untied Peterson, and "started wrestling around with her." During this second struggle, he ripped off Peterson's clothing. Walls' confession stated:

Peterson was like curled up crying like. I don't know, I guess I was paranoid and everything. I didn't want no, uh, no witnesses.
... .
I — all I know is just — all I know I just went out, and I just pulled the trigger a couple of times right there behind her head.
... .
I mean close range, I mean shit, it's got powder burns (unintelligible) and everything.

Walls stated that after the first shot, Peterson was "doing all kinds of screaming." He then forced her face into a pillow and shot her a second time in the head.

Walls pled not guilty and filed several pretrial motions, including a motion to determine his competency to stand trial. Five experts testified, three stating Walls was incompetent and two finding he was competent. The trial judge agreed with the latter two experts and held that Walls was competent to stand trial. The jury found Walls guilty of all charges submitted and later recommended life imprisonment for the murder of Alger and death for the murder of Peterson. The trial judge concurred. The conviction later was reversed and a new trial ordered. Walls v. State, 580 So.2d 131 (Fla. 1991).

At the retrial, venue was moved from Okaloosa to Jackson County because of pretrial publicity. The State's guilt-phase case consisted primarily of the physical evidence, testimony by investigating officers, testimony by a pathologist, and Walls' taped confession, which was played for the jury. Walls chose to present no case in the guilt phase. The jury later found Walls guilty as charged.

During the penalty phase, the defense presented a case that detailed Wall's considerable history of violent or threatening behavior, various emotional problems, and extensive treatment for the latter, including a stay in an Eckerd residential youth camp. A psychiatrist who had treated Walls when he was sixteen years old stated that he had placed Walls on the drug lithium carbonate to control his bipolar mood disorder (also called manic-depressive disorder). At some point, the psychiatrist said, Walls ceased taking the drug.

When asked if Walls had ever been under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance, the psychiatrist stated:

He showed some severe difficulties with acting-out behavior. When you get to the point of pushing teachers, getting to the point of being placed in an emotionally handicapped class because you can't control your behavior, you have reached a point where you are having severe behavioral problems. I don't know that I would use the word extreme, but I would probably use the word severe.
... .
I evaluated him at age 16, which was long before the murder took place, so I can't testify to what his state of mind was at the time that the murder took place.

However, the psychiatrist did agree that, at age sixteen, Walls understood right from wrong and legal from illegal behavior.

An expert psychologist stated that Walls' IQ actually had declined substantially during the years prior to the trial. This psychologist answered yes when asked whether "Walls' conduct was substantially impaired or impaired to any degree in July of 1987"

641 So.2d 386
(emphasis added), when the murder was committed

After the penalty phase, the jury recommended the death penalty for the Peterson murder by a unanimous vote.1 The judge sentenced Walls to five years for burglary of a structure, twenty years for the armed burglary of a dwelling, twenty years each for two counts of kidnapping, and two months for petty theft. Walls again received a life sentence for the murder of Alger and death for the murder of Peterson.

The judge found six aggravating factors supporting the death penalty in this instance: (1) prior violent felony conviction (the contemporaneous murder of Alger); (2) murder committed during burglary or kidnapping; (3) murder committed to avoid lawful arrest; (4) murder committed for pecuniary gain; (5) the murder was heinous, atrocious, or cruel; and (6) the murder was cold, calculated, and premeditated.

The court found the following mitigating factors, but concluded that they were of insufficient weight to preclude the death penalty here: (1) Walls had no significant history of prior criminal activity; (2) Walls' age at the time of the crime (nineteen); (3) Walls had been classified as emotionally handicapped; (4) Walls had apparent brain dysfunction and brain damage; (5) Walls had a low IQ so that he functioned intellectually at about the age of twelve or thirteen; (6) Walls confessed and cooperated with law enforcement officers; (7) Walls had a loving relationship with his parents and a disabled sibling; (8) Walls was a good worker when employed; and (9) Walls had exhibited kindness toward weak, crippled, or helpless persons and animals. The trial court specifically rejected the existence of statutory mental mitigators.

As his first issue, Walls appears to raise alternative arguments that a potential juror should have been excused for cause during voir dire, or that the trial court should have granted an additional peremptory challenge to the defense to excuse the juror. By that point in the trial the defense had exhausted all its peremptories. The juror in question had stated that she favored the death penalty but, on further questioning, also stated that she could follow the judge's instructions regarding the law. That being the case, we find no error on this point. Valdes v. State, 626 So.2d 1316, 1321 (Fla. 1993), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 114 S.Ct. 2725, 129 L.Ed.2d 849 (1994). There clearly was no sufficient reason to excuse the juror for cause, and the trial court did not abuse its discretion in declining to grant another peremptory.

Second, Walls argues that two black jurors were excused by the State in violation of State v. Neil, 457 So.2d 481 (Fla. 1984), and State v. Slappy, 522 So.2d 18 (Fla.), cert. denied, 487 U.S. 1219, 108 S.Ct. 2873, 101 L.Ed.2d 909 (1988).2 Both of these jurors, however, had expressed discomfort with the death penalty. This is a sufficient race-neutral reason for the State to exercise its peremptory. Atwater v. State, 626 So.2d 1325, 1327 (Fla. 1993), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 114 S.Ct. 1578, 128 L.Ed.2d 221 (1994).

As his third argument, Walls contends that jurors during his trial were kept in session for overtaxing hours. It is true that jurors worked into some evenings, and that the trial court noticed one juror beginning to nod her head. However, jurors in homicide trials throughout the state often work into the evening; and the trial court clearly intervened when he...

To continue reading

Request your trial
142 cases
  • Nelson v. Sec'y, Case No: 2:11-cv-327-Ftm-29CM
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
    • August 20, 2014
    ...or testimony that, but for its incompleteness, would constitute an excuse, justification, or defense as to the homicide." Walls v. State, 641 So. 2d 381, 388 (Fla. 1994) (footnote omitted). In the case at bar, there were allegations that Owens forced Tina Porth to engage in oral sex with hi......
  • Morrison v. State, SC94666.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • March 21, 2002
    ...with" the death penalty is a sufficient race-neutral reason for the State to exercise its peremptory strike. See, e.g., Walls v. State, 641 So.2d 381, 386 (Fla.1994) (holding trial court did not err in sustaining peremptory strike of venireperson who had "expressed discomfort with the death......
  • Brennan v. State, 90,279.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • July 8, 1999
    ...v. State, 699 754 So.2d 11 So.2d 662 (Fla.1997), cert. denied, 522 U.S. 1129, 118 S.Ct. 1079, 140 L.Ed.2d 137 (1998); Walls v. State, 641 So.2d 381 (Fla. 1994), and Hayes v. State, 581 So.2d 121 (Fla.1991). However, the very cases that the State points to as involving similar circumstances ......
  • Lynch v. Sec'y, Dep't of Corr., CASE NO. 6:09-cv-715-Orl-36DAB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
    • September 25, 2012
    ...The court continued to reason:This Court has held that execution-style killing is by its very nature a "cold" crime. See Walls v. State, 641 So. 2d 381, 388 (Fla. 1994). In Looney, this Court noted the significance of the fact that the victims were bound and gagged for two hours, and thus c......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT