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Abdool v. State

Supreme Court of Florida

April 6, 2017

DANE PATRICK ABDOOL, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellee. DANE PATRICK ABDOOL, Petitioner,
v.
JULIE L. JONES, etc., Respondent.

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

         An Appeal from the Circuit Court in and for Orange County, Lisa Taylor Munyon, Judge - Case No. 482006CF002848000AOX And an Original Proceeding - Habeas Corpus

          James V. Viggiano, Capital Collateral Regional Counsel, and Julissa Fontán, Maria E. DeLiberato, and Chelsea Rae Shirley, Assistant Capital Collateral Regional Counsel, Middle Region, Temple Terrace, Florida, for Appellant/Petitioner

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, Florida; and Scott A. Browne, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Tampa, Florida, for Appellee/Respondent

          PER CURIAM.

         Dane Patrick Abdool appeals the denial of his motion to vacate his conviction of first-degree murder and sentence of death filed under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.851, and he also petitions this Court for a writ of habeas corpus.[1] For the reasons that follow, we affirm the denial of Abdool's postconviction guilt phase claims and deny his guilt phase habeas claim, but we vacate his death sentence and remand for a new penalty phase.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The facts of this case were fully set out in this Court's opinion on direct appeal. See Abdool v. State, 53 So.3d 208 (Fla. 2010). Briefly, between the late-evening hours of February 24, 2006, and the early-morning hours of February 25, 2006, after the two engaged in consensual sex, 19-year-old Abdool drove 17-year-old Amelia Sookdeo to a remote area, bound her with duct tape, doused her with gasoline, and set her on fire, causing her death. Id. at 213-14.

         On February 19, 2008, after hearing the evidence summarized in this Court's decision on direct appeal, including Abdool's statement to police implicating himself in the victim's death, testimony by others as to incriminatory statements Abdool had made to them before and after the victim's murder, and physical and DNA evidence tying Abdool to the scene, Abdool's jury found him guilty of first-degree murder. Id. at 212-14. The next day, the penalty phase commenced, and as this Court explained in its decision on direct appeal, "the State presented the testimony of an expert medical witness who described for the jury the type of intense pain and suffering Amelia experienced before she died, " as well as victim impact statements from three of the victim's family members. Id. at 214.

         During the penalty phase, the defense presented testimony from several of Abdool's relatives and friends, which established that "Abdool grew up in a faith-based home with his mother and stepfather, who loved and cared for him and provided for his needs." Id. As this Court stated in its opinion on direct appeal, "[i]t was clear from their testimonies that Abdool is well-liked by friends and acquaintances and much loved by his family." Id.

         In addition, the defense presented expert testimony from Nancy Cowardin, who "evaluated Abdool to determine his level of education." Id. Ms. Cowardin testified that, while "Abdool's IQ is in the normal range[, ] he has attention deficit disorder, dyslexia, and a mild learning disability and that he reads and does math at the level of a ten- to eleven-year-old or someone who is in the sixth grade." Id. at 215. Ms. Cowardin further testified "that she could not make a connection between her conclusions regarding Abdool's educational level and the crime, but that kids with learning disabilities can make social blunders and can 'misthink things through.' " Id.

         In addition to Ms. Cowardin, the defense presented expert testimony from Dr. Karen Gold, a clinical and forensic psychologist:

Dr. Gold testified that she met with Abdool on three occasions and performed numerous tests and evaluations. In relevant part, Dr. Gold testified that Abdool is immature, is intellectually limited but not retarded, has attention deficit disorder, is hyperactive, has impulse control issues and obsessive compulsive disorder, is meticulous, and has grandiose delusions, and that his emotional age is younger than his actual age. Dr. Gold also stated that Abdool knew right from wrong and that he was competent to stand trial.

Id.

         In rebuttal, the State presented the testimony of Dr. Daniel Tressler, a forensic psychologist, "who stated that in his opinion, Abdool did not have impulse control disorder[, ] that there was no evidence that he was substantially impaired at the time of his offense, " and that "Abdool knew the difference between right and wrong." Id. Dr. Tressler further "concluded that Abdool's actions were not caused by any of his personality disorders." Id.

         Following the penalty phase presentation, the jury recommended death by a vote of ten to two. Id. After conducting a Spencer[2] hearing, at which no additional evidence was presented, the trial court followed the jury's recommendation and sentenced Abdool to death, finding that the aggravating circumstances[3] outweighed the mitigating circumstances.[4] Id. at 215-16.

         On direct appeal, [5] this Court affirmed Abdool's conviction and death sentence. Id. at 212. Thereafter, the United States Supreme Court denied Abdool's petition for a writ of certiorari. Abdool v. Florida, 132 S.Ct. 149 (2011).

          In 2012, Abdool filed a motion for postconviction relief. Following an evidentiary hearing, the circuit court denied relief on all claims. Abdool appeals the circuit court's denial of postconviction relief and also petitions this Court for a writ of habeas corpus.

         II. POSTCONVICTION MOTION

         A. Ineffective Assistance During the Guilt Phase

         Abdool first argues that his trial counsel was ineffective during the guilt phase for (1) failing to file a motion to suppress his statement to police; (2) failing to address the issues of racism and religious prejudice during jury selection; and (3) failing to consult and retain an independent arson expert.[6] For the reasons below, we affirm the circuit court's denial of relief on these claims.

         (1) Motion to Suppress

         Abdool first argues that his trial counsel was ineffective during the guilt phase for failing to file a motion to suppress his statement to police, in which Abdool admitted responsibility for the victim's death, and which the State also used in support of its argument that the CCP and HAC aggravators applied to Abdool's case. Because Abdool has not established that he was prejudiced by trial counsel's alleged deficiency, we affirm the circuit court's denial of this claim, without addressing whether trial counsel was deficient.

         Following the United States Supreme Court's decision in Strickland v.Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), this Court has explained that, to prevail on an ineffective assistance of ...


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