Washington v. State, s. 50832

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM; ENGLAND; HATCHETT; ENGLAND
Citation362 So.2d 658
PartiesDavid Leroy WASHINGTON, Appellant, v. STATE of Florida, Appellee.
Docket Number50833 and 50850,Nos. 50832,s. 50832
Decision Date07 September 1978

Page 658

362 So.2d 658
David Leroy WASHINGTON, Appellant,
v.
STATE of Florida, Appellee.
Nos. 50832, 50833 and 50850.
Supreme Court of Florida.
Sept. 7, 1978.

Page 660

William R. Tunkey of Weiner, Robbins, Sheres & Tunkey, Miami, for appellant.

Robert L. Shevin, Atty. Gen., Tallahassee, and Ira N. Loewy, Asst. Atty. Gen., Miami, for appellee.

PER CURIAM.

This cause consists of consolidated appeals from sentences of death entered upon pleas of guilty to murder in the first degree in three cases, in the Circuit Court of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit for Dade County. Our jurisdiction to review this case is based on Article V, Section 3(b)(1), Florida Constitution, and Section 921.141(4), Florida Statutes (1975).

These appeals arise out of a series of murders committed by appellant during a twelve-day period. On September 20, 1976, appellant and an accomplice formulated a plan to rob and kill Daniel Pridgen. The purported motive for the killing was the fact that Pridgen, a minister, was a homosexual and in appellant's opinion a man of the cloth violated religious and moral precepts by engaging in homosexual activities. According to the plan, appellant's accomplice was to induce Pridgen to engage in homosexual activities. When Pridgen was undressed and in bed, the accomplice was to cough two times as a sign for appellant to enter the home and kill Pridgen. Appellant entered the Pridgen home when the signal was given and, while the accomplice covered Pridgen's face with a pillow and held him helpless, appellant stabbed the victim to death. Appellant and his accomplice stole certain items from Pridgen's home, attempted to wipe their fingerprints from surfaces about the house, and fled.

During the evening of September 23, 1976, appellant proceeded to the residence of Katrina Birk pursuant to a plan for robbery. Mr. Birk allegedly had previously acted as a "fence" for property stolen by appellant. Appellant carried a rope, a knife and a gun with him to the residence. By appellant's admission, the gun was loaded. Having arrived in the area of the home, appellant concealed himself outside of the residence and kept the home under surveillance for some period of time. Appellant waited until he was relatively certain that the occupants of the home, Mrs. Birk and her three sisters-in-law, were together in one room. Once this occurred, appellant cut the screen on the Birks' front door and entered the residence. Appellant disguised himself by tying a rag around a portion of his face. Appellant instructed the four occupants to lie on the floor. Two of the women complied with appellant's demand, and appellant permitted one woman to seat herself in a chair. Mrs. Birk went into the kitchen and obtained a box containing money, which she offered to appellant. At this point, appellant cut the telephone cord and proceeded to tie up the four women. As appellant was completing this task, he observed Mrs. Birk inching her way into the kitchen. An argument ensued between the two, and appellant shot Mrs. Birk in the head and repeatedly stabbed her with his knife, causing her death. Appellant thereafter approached his bound victims, shooting each in the head and inflicting several stab wounds. Appellant then fled to his home, carrying the money box. After arriving at his home, appellant counted the stolen money and disposed of the knife and the money container. Each of the sisters-in-law survived the assault. However, one woman became blind in one eye, one suffers

Page 661

breathing difficulties due to the knife wounds to her lungs, and one remains in a comatose, vegetable state.

On approximately September 27, 1976, appellant contacted his third victim, Frank Meli, by telephone in response to the latter's newspaper advertisement for the sale of an automobile. After briefly conferring with Meli, appellant terminated the telephone conversation. The following morning, appellant again called the Meli residence and arranged to meet Meli at a particular intersection for a test drive of the vehicle. Following the test drive, appellant persuaded Meli to go to appellant's home to obtain the money to conclude the sale. Upon Meli's entry into appellant's home, appellant brandished a knife and forcibly bound his victim to a bed. Two of appellant's companions assisted appellant in guarding Meli to prevent an escape. Appellant succeeded in selling Meli's automobile and then forced Meli to telephone his family and request a ransom.

On the morning of September 29, 1976, appellant paid his companions part of the proceeds from the sale of the automobile for their assistance in holding Meli captive. Appellant's friends left the residence and appellant entered the bedroom where Meli had been tied spread-eagled to a bed. The testimony at this point is conflicting. Appellant stated in his subsequent written confession to police that Meli had untied one of the four straps securing him to a bed and a struggle ensued. It is uncontested, however, that appellant stabbed Meli eleven times. During the stabbing, appellant's companion entered the bedroom and covered Meli's face with a pillow to prevent others from hearing the victim's screams. When appellant and his companion left the room a few minutes later, Meli was fatally wounded but still alive. Before leaving, appellant secured Meli's bonds and gagged him. Appellant then proceeded to an intersection where he had arranged to meet Meli's brother and obtain the ransom money. After loitering in the area for several minutes, appellant observed what he believed to be police officers on a stakeout. Reaching the conclusion that Meli's brother had contacted the police, appellant left the area and returned home. Appellant reentered the bedroom in which Meli was being held and found his hostage dead. Appellant then dug a shallow grave in his backyard and buried his victim's body.

On October 1, 1976, an investigation into Frank Meli's disappearance culminated in the arrest of appellant's two companions at appellant's home. After learning that he was being sought by law enforcement officers, appellant surrendered to police near his residence. Thereafter, appellant was taken to the homicide office at the Dade County Public Safety Department and was advised of his Miranda rights. Appellant responded affirmatively to detailed questions of police with respect to whether he wished to waive these rights. When asked if he desired the presence of an attorney before speaking with the police, appellant answered, "I don't need one if I told the truth. I don't need no attorney." Appellant then gave police a twenty-three page sworn statement, detailing his participation in the kidnapping and murder of Frank Meli, upon which an indictment was subsequently issued.

While incarcerated pending trial for the Meli incident, appellant was charged with the murder of Katrina Birk. Appellant was again advised of his Miranda rights which he specifically waived. Appellant responded in the negative to inquiries as to whether he desired to consult with the attorney who had been appointed to represent him in the Meli case. Appellant then gave a detailed sworn statement concerning the Birk homicide. Thereafter, appellant confessed to the killing of Daniel Pridgen, after again being advised of and waiving his Miranda rights.

Appellant was charged with the first degree murder and robbery of Daniel Pridgen; three counts of attempted first degree murder and one count of first degree murder, robbery, and breaking and entering a dwelling and unlawfully assaulting persons therein in connection with the Birk incident; one count of murder, kidnapping for

Page 662

ransom, robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery as to Frank Meli. At arraignment, appellant entered pleas of not guilty to the charges. However, appellant thereafter withdrew these pleas and pleaded guilty to each offense. The court conducted an extensive Voir dire examination of appellant with respect to the factual basis of each charge, in response to which appellant essentially reiterated the substance of his sworn confessions to police.

Appellant expressly waived his right to a jury during the sentencing phase of his trial under Section 921.141(1) and (2), Florida Statutes (1975), and specifically requested the Court to determine punishment without a jury. 1

On December 15, 1976, the circuit judge entered a written sentence of death as to each of the three counts of murder in the first degree; sentences of life imprisonment with respect to three counts of robbery and one count of kidnapping for ransom, and of breaking and entering and unlawfully assaulting persons therein; thirty years imprisonment as to each of three counts of attempted murder in the first degree; and fifteen years imprisonment for conspiracy to commit robbery. The sentences in each case were to run consecutively. The judge's order included his findings in support of each sentence as required by Section 921.141(3), Florida Statutes (1975). The findings with respect to the Daniel Pridgen case were:

1. The murder . . . was especially heinous, atrocious and cruel. Section 921.141(5)(h), Florida Statutes. The victim in this case did not meet a swift or relatively painless death. The murder was accomplished by the defendant's repeatedly stabbing the body of the victim while the victim was held defenseless on a bed with no ability to defend himself. During the administration of the knife wounds, the victim was alive and in a position to feel the pain of each wound.

2. The murder . . . was committed while the defendant was engaged in another dangerous and violent felony, to-wit: robbery, Section 921.141(5)(d), Florida Statutes, and the capital felony was plainly committed for pecuniary gain, Section 921.141(5)(f), Florida Statutes. The evidence adduced at the sentencing hearing indicates that the defendant stole money and a firearm from the victim's apartment. Moreover, the defendant, through counsel, has...

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38 practice notes
  • Washington v. Strickland, No. 81-5379
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • December 23, 1982
    ...to consecutive terms of imprisonment for the other crimes. The death sentences were upheld on direct appeal. Washington v. State, 362 So.2d 658 (Fla.1978), cert. denied, 441 U.S. 937, 99 S.Ct. 2063, 60 L.Ed.2d 666 B. Motion for Post-Conviction Relief in State Court In March 1980 Washington,......
  • Washington v. Strickland, No. 81-5379
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • April 23, 1982
    ...7, 1978, the Florida Supreme Court, on direct appeal, affirmed Washington's convictions and death sentences. Washington v. State, 362 So.2d 658 (Fla.1978), cert. denied, 441 U.S. 937, 99 S.Ct. 2063, 60 L.Ed.2d 666 (1979). After discussing at some length the circumstances surrounding Washing......
  • Proffitt v. Wainwright, No. 80-5997
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • September 10, 1982
    ...defendant tortured his child over prolonged period and murdered her to prevent discovery of her battered condition); Washington v. State, 362 So.2d 658 (Fla.1978), cert. denied, 441 U.S. 937, 99 S.Ct. 2063, 60 L.Ed.2d 666 (1979) (factor upheld where evidence showed bullet did not penetrate ......
  • Strickland v. Washington, No. 82-1554
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 14, 1984
    ...that there are insufficient mitigating circumstances . . . to outweigh the aggravating circumstances." See Washington v. State, 362 So.2d 658, 663-664 (Fla.1978), (quoting trial court findings), cert. denied, 441 U.S. 937, 99 S.Ct. 2063, 60 L.Ed.2d 666 (1979). He therefore sentenced respond......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
38 cases
  • Washington v. Strickland, No. 81-5379
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • December 23, 1982
    ...to consecutive terms of imprisonment for the other crimes. The death sentences were upheld on direct appeal. Washington v. State, 362 So.2d 658 (Fla.1978), cert. denied, 441 U.S. 937, 99 S.Ct. 2063, 60 L.Ed.2d 666 B. Motion for Post-Conviction Relief in State Court In March 1980 Washington,......
  • Washington v. Strickland, No. 81-5379
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • April 23, 1982
    ...7, 1978, the Florida Supreme Court, on direct appeal, affirmed Washington's convictions and death sentences. Washington v. State, 362 So.2d 658 (Fla.1978), cert. denied, 441 U.S. 937, 99 S.Ct. 2063, 60 L.Ed.2d 666 (1979). After discussing at some length the circumstances surrounding Washing......
  • Proffitt v. Wainwright, No. 80-5997
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • September 10, 1982
    ...defendant tortured his child over prolonged period and murdered her to prevent discovery of her battered condition); Washington v. State, 362 So.2d 658 (Fla.1978), cert. denied, 441 U.S. 937, 99 S.Ct. 2063, 60 L.Ed.2d 666 (1979) (factor upheld where evidence showed bullet did not penetrate ......
  • Strickland v. Washington, No. 82-1554
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 14, 1984
    ...that there are insufficient mitigating circumstances . . . to outweigh the aggravating circumstances." See Washington v. State, 362 So.2d 658, 663-664 (Fla.1978), (quoting trial court findings), cert. denied, 441 U.S. 937, 99 S.Ct. 2063, 60 L.Ed.2d 666 (1979). He therefore sentenced respond......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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