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Dubose v. State

Supreme Court of Florida

February 9, 2017



         An Appeal from the Circuit Court in and for Duval County, Lawrence Page Haddock, Jr., Judge - Case No. 162006CF018285AXXXMA.

          Richard Randall Kuritz, Jacksonville, Florida, for Appellant.

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Carolyn Marie Snurkowski, Associate Deputy Attorney General, and Berdene Bevione Beckles, Assistant Attorney General, Tallahassee, Florida; and Lisa-Marie Krause Lerner, Assistant Attorney General, West Palm Beach, Florida, for Appellee.

          PER CURIAM.

         On January 3, 2007, Rasheem Dubose was charged by indictment in Duval County with first-degree murder for the killing of Drewshawna Washington-Davis and with shooting into a building. The charge of one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon was later added. The State sought the death penalty. The State originally tried Dubose along with his two brothers, who were charged with the same crimes stemming from the same incident. Though the three brothers were tried together, Dubose had a separate jury. Dubose's first trial resulted in a hung jury and a mistrial was declared. His brothers were convicted on all counts and sentenced to life in prison.

         Dubose's second trial began in February 2010. The jury found Dubose guilty of both first-degree premeditated murder and felony murder, with burglary as the underlying felony. He was also found guilty of shooting into a building. The jury voted for imposition of the death penalty by a vote of eight to four. On December 9, 2010, the trial court followed the jury's recommendation and sentenced Dubose to death.

         Dubose now appeals his convictions and sentences. We have jurisdiction. See art. V § 3(b)(1), Fla. Const. For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we affirm Dubose's convictions and vacate his sentence of death.


         On July 26, 2006, at approximately 4:00 p.m., Willie Davis, Jr., drove his girlfriend, Cinee Tinsley, to the home where she lived with her mother and siblings. As Davis turned onto Tinsley's street, he noticed Dubose's younger brother walking in the street. Davis swerved in an attempt to hit Dubose's younger brother with the car, but was unsuccessful. Dubose's younger brother continued down the street, away from Tinsley's home. Dubose had been on Tinsley's porch with Tinsley's brother and had witnessed the incident. When Davis pulled into Tinsley's yard, Dubose walked toward the car, speaking to Davis through the car window. Davis got out of the car and argued with Dubose for approximately one minute and then returned to the car. Davis quickly drove away from Tinsley's home with Tinsley still inside the car. Davis drove to his father's house, retrieved a gun, and drove back toward Tinsley's home. On the way back to Tinsley's home, Davis told Tinsley "I'm going to make him get naked in the street."

         Davis returned to Tinsley's home and saw Dubose still in the front yard with Tinsley's older brother. Davis got out of the car, grabbed Dubose by his shirt, pushed him against a wall, put the gun to the back of his head, and screamed at him to empty his pockets. Dubose complied and emptied his pockets as commanded, after which Davis ridiculed him for not having any money in his pockets. Davis then ordered Dubose to pull his pants down; again, Dubose complied. Tinsley's mother came out of the house and asked Davis to stop what he was doing. He stopped, but Dubose said something that caused Davis to re-engage with him. Tinsley's mother grabbed Dubose and pulled him into her home. Davis and Tinsley left the scene in Davis's car. Dubose left the Tinsley home a short time later on foot.

         Dubose went home and told his two younger brothers that Davis had attempted to rob him. After Dubose made a phone call, he threw and shattered his brother's phone and said, "I'm going to kill this nigger." Dubose left his home shortly thereafter. Dubose's younger brother continuously made phone calls to Maxie Wilson, the brothers' cousin, who is a known drug dealer. That day, Maxie Wilson was driving a white Impala rental car, with his friend Sherman Eley in the passenger seat. After finally answering the phone and speaking with Dubose's younger brother, Maxie Wilson drove to the home of the Dubose brothers. Upon arrival, Dubose's brothers got into the back seat of Wilson's car. One of them was armed with a nine-millimeter firearm. Maxie Wilson drove around the corner where Dubose was standing in front of a house. Dubose got into the back seat of the car.

         Then, Dubose instructed Maxie Wilson to drive around the corner to where Davis's mother lived. Once they arrived at the house, they saw Davis's car parked in the front yard. One of the brothers initially prepared to shoot at Davis's car, but was instructed not to by Sherman Eley. The brothers circled the house again and pulled onto a dirt road behind the house. Maxie Wilson parked the car near the backyard fence line of the victim's house and provided the brothers with two more guns, a .45 caliber pistol and a Glock-nine with an extended magazine, which were both in the car with him prior to the incident. Dubose's brothers armed themselves with the nine-millimeter gun and the .45 caliber gun. Dubose armed himself with the Glock-nine. The Dubose brothers exited the vehicle then jumped a fence to enter Davis's mother's backyard.

         Davis and Tinsley had gone to his mother's house after the incident. When they arrived, Davis's mother and stepfather were in the dining area of the residence. Davis was seated on a couch by the window on the side of the house. Three children, including Davis's eight-year-old niece, Drewshawna, were in the bedroom. When the gunfire began, the initial shots were sporadic and then became more continuous. Immediately after the shooting stopped, Tinsley ran to the bedroom to check on the welfare of the children. Drewshawna, who had been shot in the back, lay on top of her younger cousins in a protective position.

         After the shooting, the Dubose brothers returned to Maxie Wilson's white Impala. During the car ride, one of the brothers received a phone call that a child had been killed in the shooting. With Sherman Eley still in the passenger seat, Maxie Wilson drove the brothers to a house owned by David Craighton in a secluded, wooded area. Maxie Wilson had previously requested permission to reside at Craighton's home, under the auspices that he needed a place to live with his girlfriend and young child. While at the house, the brothers gave their clothing and weapons to Maxie Williams. Maxie Williams left the brothers at the house, drove Sherman Eley back to his car, which had been parked at an apartment complex in a different neighborhood, and disposed of the clothes and weapons in a dumpster at that apartment complex. The firearms were never recovered. On the evening of July 30, 2006, Craighton came to his house to find the Dubose brothers occupying it. Craighton used a large stick to hold the brothers in the house until the police arrived and arrested them.

         Reconstruction of the bullet trajectories revealed that twenty-nine bullets struck the residence, some from the side and some from the rear. Twenty-three of these shots were fired from Dubose's Glock-nine, including the gunshot that killed Drewshawna. The fatal bullet entered the residence through the window on the side of the house, traveled through at least two walls, and entered the bedroom. Someone looking through this window would not have seen the victim in the bedroom, but possibly would have seen someone sitting on the couch near the dining area.

         Penalty Phase: State's Witnesses

         The penalty phase began on March 9, 2010. The State offered victim impact statements from the victim's grandmothers, the victim's aunt, and the victim's third-grade teacher. The State also offered testimony from Officer Scott Medlock, the officer involved in Dubose's conviction for resisting arrest with violence. Officer Medlock explained his pursuit and subsequent physical altercation with Dubose after he fled following a suspicious person stop. The officer also explained that Dubose apologized and stated that he was not attempting to harm the officer, he just wanted to be free. The officer testified that in hindsight he believed that the defendant was not attempting to harm him, but that belief does not, however, lessen the seriousness of Dubose's actions.

         Penalty Phase: Defense Witnesses

         In addition to Dubose's family members, who testified on his behalf, Clinical Psychologist and Neurologist, Dr. Hyman Eisenstein, testified as an expert. Dr. Eisenstein testified that Dubose's results on the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (CTBS) from first through eighth grade indicate that he scored between the 2nd and 18th percentile (on the low end, 98 percent of the population scored better than him, and on the high end, 82 percent of the population scored better than him). He testified Dubose had academic impairment disability from the first grade through the ninth grade. The doctor also testified that Dubose quit school in the ninth grade but prior to that may have been promoted through special programs or simply promoted despite the fact that he had been failing. Dr. Eisenstein stated there was no indication at all that Dubose was malingering.

         Dr. Eisenstein indicated that at the age of 25 years and 11 months, Dubose received an IQ Score of 73 on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary, which is equivalent to a ten year old child. He also testified that Dubose received a grade equivalent to a four year old on the WRAT4 (Wide Range Achievement Test, Fourth Edition); he scored in the sixty-ninth percentile on the reading comprehension portion, with anything below the seventieth percentile being considered mild mental retardation. Dubose's verbal comprehension scores on the WAIS-IV (Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, Fourth Edition) equaled 70. A new feature of the WAIS-IV is the GAI (general ability index), upon which the defendant scored a 75, in the borderline range. Dr. Eisenstein concluded that Dubose's full scale IQ score was 82, which placed him in the low average range. A PET scan was not conducted, but Dr. Eisenstein stated that other factors present in Dubose's life indicated the possibility that he has sustained some brain damage. Dr. Eisenstein assumed that Dubose has frontal lobe damage, which may have made it difficult for him to get over being humiliated by Davis. On cross-examination, Dr. Eisenstein acknowledged that Dubose actually began the tenth grade before he dropped out, and that there were various behavior problem reports in elementary school. On redirect, Dr. Eisenstein opined that Dubose's three-year participation in football and his participation in boxing could have caused brain impairment.

         Dr. Alan Fox, professor at Northeastern University, also testified as an expert for the defense. Dr. Fox explained that poor neighborhoods such as the one where Dubose was raised sometimes have a "code, " which is the idea of being respected and important, despite the lack of education or employment. He further explained that in this type of environment, "violence is seen as an appropriate, virtually a required response to being disrespected, being humiliated." Dr. Fox reviewed the thirteen DCF reports which contained information that Dubose's father was arrested for abuse; he determined that Dubose always tried to protect the rest of the family from their father. Dr. Fox testified that because Dubose had no positive role models in his life and because his grandmother worked so much, he modeled himself after other young men in the neighborhood. Associating himself with the people in his neighborhood, opined Dr. Fox, is what taught Dubose the necessity of fighting.

         On cross-examination, Dr. Fox acknowledged that on the date of the shooting, Dubose knew right from wrong, he knew that killing was wrong, and that at every step in the events of the day, he could have made different decisions. He also explained that the code of the street may have a different definition of right from wrong than the conventional meaning. Dr. Fox further acknowledged that persons who grow up in rough neighborhoods, may have a better appreciation for the consequences of violence. Dr. Fox stated that the combination of the risk factors in Dubose's life were "tremendous." Dr. Fox opined that the message Dubose may have intended to send was one of deterrence, "Don't mess with us. We're not weak. We won't take it lying down[, ]" as opposed to retribution which could have been accomplished by finding Davis and doing something to him personally, one-on-one. Dr. Fox acknowledged that he met with Dubose for a total of forty-five minutes to an hour.

         Spencer Hearing

         At the conclusion of the penalty phase, the jury recommended by a vote of eight to four that Dubose be sentenced to death for the murder of Drewshawna. Prior to sentencing, the court held a Spencer hearing on November 10, 2010. In consideration of the time between the penalty phase and the Spencer hearing, some of the witnesses repeated their testimony from the penalty phase. Multiple family members and mental health experts testified at the Spencer hearing, including Dr. Eisenstein and Dr. Waldman.

         Dr. Eisenstein and Dr. Waldman restated their conclusions that Dubose suffered from frontal lobe damage that significantly impaired his ability to control his impulses. As further mitigation, the defense offered a report that evaluated the results of Dubose's PET scan. Dubose was administered the PET scan in anticipation of the Spencer hearing. Dr. Ruben C. Gur, who evaluated the results and wrote the report that was admitted into evidence, concluded that Dubose suffered abnormalities in regions of the brain that play a significant role in regulating behavior.

         II. ANALYSIS

         Juror ...

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