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Bradley v. State

Supreme Court of Florida

March 30, 2017

BRANDON LEE BRADLEY, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellee.

         NOT FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING MOTION, AND IF FILED, DETERMINED.

         An Appeal from the Circuit Court in and for Brevard County, Morgan Laur Reinman, Judge - Case No. 052012CF035337AXXXXX

          James S. Purdy, Public Defender, and Nancy Ryan, Assistant Public Defender, Seventh Judicial Circuit, Daytona Beach, Florida, for Appellant.

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, Florida; and Stacey E. Kircher, Assistant Attorney General, Daytona Beach, Florida, for Appellee.

          PER CURIAM.

         Brandon Lee Bradley appeals his conviction of first-degree murder and his sentence of death. We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 3(b)(1), Fla. Const. For the reasons that follow, we affirm Bradley's convictions for first-degree murder, robbery, fleeing and eluding, and resisting arrest with violence. We vacate his sentence of death and remand for a new sentencing proceeding.

         FACTS

         Brandon Lee Bradley and Andria Kerchner were seen by another Econo Lodge guest and motel employees loading Econo Lodge property, including pillows, sheets, and an air conditioning unit, into Bradley's white Ford Explorer on the morning of March 6, 2012, between 10:30 and 10:45 a.m. Employees of the Melbourne, Florida, Econo Lodge confronted Bradley and Kerchner in the parking lot. As the codefendants attempted to drive away, Andrew Jordan, a motel maintenance man, yelled that he would call 911 if Bradley did not get out of the car and return the property. Mr. Jordan stood in front of the car to stop its movement. As he drove out of the parking lot, Bradley hit Mr. Jordan with the car. Mr. Jordan was not injured. Econo Lodge owner Mohammad Malik called police to report the events he witnessed in the parking lot as they unfolded. Mr. Malik gave police the tag number of Bradley's white Ford Explorer, the direction of the vehicle on U.S. 192 as it left the Econo Lodge parking lot, and a description of Bradley as a black male driver accompanied by a white female passenger.

         Deputy Barbara Pill was driving southbound on John Rhodes Boulevard within two miles of the Econo Lodge when she learned of the motel theft via police dispatch and spotted the white Ford Explorer. Bradley passed Deputy Pill driving northbound. Deputy Pill confirmed that the license plate matched the police dispatch description, turned to chase the vehicle, and activated her lights.

         The dash camera in Deputy Pill's police cruiser began recording at 11:07:18 a.m. as she followed Bradley's white Ford Explorer. The video recording was introduced at trial. The recording shows Bradley's vehicle turn onto a residential street, Elena Way, where Deputy Pill initiated a traffic stop. Deputy Pill instructed Bradley to exit his vehicle over twenty times, but Bradley did not comply. Deputy Pill's weapon was not drawn during the traffic stop. On the video, Bradley can be heard refusing to exit the vehicle through the partially open front driver's side door.

         Eventually, Bradley began to slowly move the car forward, and Deputy Pill approached his partially open door. Deputy Pill reached into the vehicle to retrieve the keys and prevent Bradley from driving away. At about 11:11 a.m., Bradley pulled out a semiautomatic firearm and pointed it at Deputy Pill. Bradley fired eight shots at Deputy Pill from a distance of about two feet through the partially open door. The gunshots were recorded not only on the dash camera, but also on the police radio system and simultaneously broadcast to other law enforcement officers. Bradley continued pulling forward as he shot Deputy Pill. Bradley made a U-turn on the street and drove away.

         A resident of Elena Way witnessed the shooting, called 911, and rushed to the street to help Deputy Pill. The resident reported a black male driver and white female passenger. Deputy James Troup arrived on the scene seconds after the shooting to find Deputy Pill lying in the street. Deputy Pill's firearm was strapped in its holster. Deputy Victor Velez arrived next. He described Deputy Pill as gasping and lying on her back. The gunshot wound to her head was so severe he did not believe she would live. Dr. Sajid Qaiser's autopsy confirmed that Deputy Pill had been shot at a distance of under two feet, producing five gunshot wounds. Dr. Qaiser testified that the wound to Deputy Pill's head was fatal and another wound on her upper left arm was lethal.

         Bradley attempted to elude law enforcement by driving down side streets and through residential yards in the neighborhood. Kerchner testified that they stopped at a house with an open garage door, hoping to find gasoline inside. Bradley parked in Gerard Joseph Weber's driveway on Janewood Lane. Weber heard the police helicopter overhead, went to his garage, and found Kerchner hiding while smoking a cigarette. Mr. Weber told her to take what she needed. Inside his home, Weber called police and notified them to follow the Explorer. Law enforcement later found Kerchner's cell phone inside Mr. Weber's garage.

         A police chase ensued after Bradley and Kerchner left Janewood Lane, with the police helicopter overhead, recording the chase on video. Police on the ground employed stop sticks to halt the Explorer, and Bradley drove around them. Police cruisers activated lights and sirens throughout the chase. Bradley did not stop until he ran over stop sticks deployed by Officer Chad Cooper on Turtlemound Road. The stop sticks caused the vehicle to hit a stop sign and a guard rail, rolling to land passenger side down in a ditch filled with water. Bradley and Kerchner did not exit the vehicle until police threw a brick through the rear window to shatter the glass about twenty minutes later. Both Bradley and Kerchner were arrested on Turtlemound Road.

         Tests conducted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement confirmed that the handgun retrieved from Bradley's vehicle matched the bullets retrieved from Deputy Pill's body, the ground at Elena Way, and the inside of Bradley's vehicle. Bradley did not testify at trial, but his March 6, 2012, interview was played for the jury. In the video, Bradley told police that he shot Deputy Pill because she was trying to get her gun and he feared she would kill him. The trial judge noted that the murder was clearly recorded on the dash camera inside Deputy Pill's police cruiser. The trial judge also found the evidence of Bradley's guilt was "overwhelming, and beyond a shadow of any doubt . . . [e]ven without [Bradley's] confession."

         Bradley was indicted for the following: (1) first-degree premeditated murder with a firearm of law enforcement officer Deputy Barbara Pill; (2) robbery; (3) aggravated fleeing or attempting to elude a law enforcement officer (siren and lights activated with high speed or reckless driving); and (4) resisting arrest with violence. Bradley's codefendant Andria Kerchner was indicted for felony murder, robbery, and ...


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