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Braddy v. State

Supreme Court of Florida

June 15, 2017

JULIE L. JONES, etc., Respondent.


         An Appeal from the Circuit Court in and for Miami-Dade County, Ariana Fajardo Orshan, Judge - Case No. 131998CF0377670001XX And an Original Proceeding - Habeas Corpus

          Neal A. Dupree, Capital Collateral Regional Counsel, William M. Hennis, III, Litigation Director, and Jessica Houston, Staff Attorney, Office of the Capital Collateral Regional Counsel, Southern Region, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for Appellant/Petitioner.

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, and Lisa A. Hopkins, Assistant Attorney General, Tallahassee, Florida, for Appellee/Respondent.

          PER CURIAM.

         Harrel Franklin Braddy, an inmate under sentence of death, appeals an order of the circuit court denying his motion for postconviction relief filed under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.851. Braddy also petitions this Court for a writ of habeas corpus. We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 3(b)(1), (9), Fla. Const. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the postconviction court's denial of relief for a new guilt phase but grant Braddy a new penalty phase based on the United States Supreme Court's opinion in Hurst v. Florida (Hurst v. Florida), 136 S.Ct. 616 (2016), and this Court's opinion on remand in Hurst v. State (Hurst), 202 So.3d 40 (Fla. 2016), cert. denied, No. 16-998, 2017 WL 635999 (U.S. May 22, 2017).

         I. BACKGROUND

         In 2007, Braddy was convicted of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, two counts of kidnapping, burglary of a structure with an assault or battery therein, child neglect causing great bodily harm, and attempted escape. Braddy v. State, 111 So.3d 810, 826 (Fla. 2012). On appeal, this Court set out the facts of the crimes:

The evidence presented at Braddy's trial revealed the following facts. Shandelle Maycock, mother to then five-year-old Quatisha, testified that she first met Braddy and his wife Cyteria through a mutual friend from church. Shortly after their initial meeting, Braddy began showing up at Shandelle's home alone, unannounced, and uninvited, staying for short periods of time with no apparent purpose. Shandelle testified that she initially thought of Braddy as a "nice person" and would occasionally ask him for small favors. Braddy once inappropriately placed his hand between Shandelle's legs, but when Shandelle became angry and threatened Braddy with a knife, Braddy left her apartment and later apologized for his actions. Shandelle testified that Braddy never again made a sexual advance toward her.
On Friday, November 6, 1998, Braddy picked Shandelle up from work and drove her home. After Braddy left Shandelle's apartment at approximately 5:30 p.m., Shandelle began to call around looking for a ride to pick up Quatisha, who was being watched by a family member. Shandelle had not found a ride by approximately 10 p.m., at which time Braddy returned to her apartment in a gold Lincoln Town Car that he had rented earlier in the day. Braddy told Shandelle that they needed to talk but agreed to first drive Shandelle to pick up Quatisha. After picking up Quatisha and returning to Shandelle's apartment, Braddy again stated that he needed to talk to Shandelle. Shandelle agreed, but before Braddy could talk to Shandelle, the phone rang. Shandelle answered the phone, had a brief conversation, and, after hanging up, told Braddy that he needed to leave because she was expecting company. Shandelle testified that this statement had been a lie-she had not been expecting company but simply wanted Braddy to leave because it was late and she was tired. Upon being told to leave, Braddy immediately attacked Shandelle, threatening to kill her and choking her until she lost consciousness. Shandelle testified that when she regained consciousness, she was still in her apartment but Braddy again choked her until she passed out.
Shandelle's landlord, who occupied the house to which Shandelle's apartment was attached, testified that he heard shouting coming from Shandelle's apartment shortly before midnight. When he looked outside a short time later, the landlord saw Braddy standing at the driver-side door of the Town Car and Quatisha standing by the passenger-side door. He did not see Shandelle.
Shandelle testified that when she awoke for the second time, she was in the back seat of a large car parked in her driveway. Quatisha was in the front passenger seat, and Braddy was in the driver's seat. As Braddy began to drive, Shandelle told Quatisha that they were going to jump out of the car. Braddy warned Shandelle not to jump, but Shandelle nevertheless pulled Quatisha into the backseat and opened the door. When Braddy saw that they were about to jump, he accelerated and turned a corner, causing Shandelle and Quatisha to fall out of the car.
Braddy stopped the car, helped Quatisha back into the car, and put Shandelle in the trunk. Shandelle testified that she remained in the trunk for thirty to forty-five minutes while Braddy continued to drive, after which time the car stopped and Braddy opened the trunk. Braddy pulled Shandelle out of the trunk, threw her to the ground, and again choked her until she lost consciousness, all the while threatening to kill her and accusing her of using him. When Shandelle woke up, it was daylight and she was lying in a remote area surrounded by foliage. Shandelle walked to the road and flagged down passing motorists, who called the police.
Between 1:30 and 2:30 a.m. on Saturday, November 7, Braddy returned home in the Town Car. Cyteria testified that she was awakened when Braddy came home and, when she went to the door to meet him, saw Braddy wiping down the interior of the Town Car with a cloth. Cyteria also testified that the washing machine was running and that when she looked inside the machine, she saw the clothes Braddy had been wearing earlier that night.
On November 7, police spoke to Shandelle at Glades Hospital, where she had been taken for treatment after being found on the side of the road that morning. Shandelle gave police her statement, along with the names and descriptions of Braddy and Quatisha. Detectives Giancarlo Milito and Juan Murias went to Braddy's home to determine Quatisha's whereabouts. Shortly after the detectives arrived at Braddy's house, they observed him exit the house and drive away in the Town Car. The detectives followed Braddy to a gas station and approached him as he was pumping gas. When the detectives first asked Braddy about Quatisha, Braddy appeared calm and denied any knowledge of the situation. However, when the detectives informed Braddy that Shandelle was alive and had implicated him in Quatisha's disappearance, Braddy turned pale, began to sweat, shake, and cry, and claimed to feel faint. Detective Milito testified that at this point, although Braddy was not under arrest, he placed Braddy in handcuffs for everyone's safety because of "the history that I had of him."
The detectives took Braddy to the Miami-Dade County Police Department and sent the Town Car to be processed. Detectives Otis Chambers and Fernando Suco began to question Braddy at approximately 9 p.m. on Saturday, November 7. When the detectives asked Braddy if he would consent to giving DNA samples, Braddy stated that he knew his rights and wished to be read his rights. Detective Suco, the lead investigator in the case, explained Braddy's rights to him pursuant to Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 461 (1966), through the use of a standard Miranda form, which Braddy signed and initialed appropriately. After Braddy indicated that he understood and waived his rights, Detective Suco obtained Braddy's consent to take specimens for DNA samples and to search Braddy's home and the Town Car. However, because Braddy hesitated before signing the last consent form, Suco also obtained search warrants for Braddy's house and the Town Car.
Pursuant to both Braddy's consent to search and the search warrant, police searched the Town Car on Sunday, November 8. After being only partially processed, however, the Town Car was mistakenly released back to the rental agency, where it remained for approximately a day. Police were able to recover the Town Car before it had been cleaned by the rental agency, and pursuant to a second search warrant signed on November 10, investigators removed the trunk liner for DNA testing. Shandelle's blood was found on the liner.
Meanwhile, Braddy's interview continued early into the morning of November 8. Although Braddy spoke to the detectives- becoming visibly agitated when talking about Shandelle-he divulged no information about Quatisha's whereabouts. Feeling that they were not making any progress, the detectives took a break from the interview just before midnight on November 7. During the break, Detective Suco prepared Braddy's arrest form and conferred with other detectives who were gathering information on the case. Having determined that Braddy was lying to them, based on information received from other detectives, the detectives reinitiated the interview at approximately 1:15 a.m. on November 8 and confronted Braddy about lying. Braddy responded by saying, "I can't tell you. Even if I'm found innocent, my family will not talk to me again." The detectives continued to question Braddy, but although there was some interaction, Braddy refused to answer questions about Quatisha and mostly "just sat there or . . . would put his head down."
At approximately 3 a.m. on November 8, Braddy asked to talk to Detective Chambers alone. The detectives complied, but after fifteen to twenty minutes of useless conversation, Detective Chambers brought Detective Suco back into the room. Shortly thereafter, both detectives escorted Braddy to the bathroom, which he had asked to use. While walking through the homicide office to and from the bathroom, Braddy appeared to be "looking around" and "seeing where he was at." After returning from the bathroom, the detectives again left Braddy in the interview room while the detectives compared information with other investigators. The detectives resumed the interview at approximately 3:55 a.m. and again confronted Braddy with evidence that contradicted what Braddy had been telling them. For the next two hours, Braddy responded to questions but refused to talk about Quatisha's whereabouts. At around 6:15 a.m. on November 8, in an attempt to evoke an emotional response and elicit information, the detectives lied and told Braddy that his mother had suffered a heart attack. Although Braddy became visibly upset at this information, he did not divulge any information about Quatisha.
Finally, at around 8 a.m. on November 8, Braddy told the detectives that he had left Quatisha in the same area where he had left Shandelle. Braddy then stated that he was tired of talking to the detectives and said that if they did not believe his story, they could take him to jail. At this point, the detectives stopped the interview, relayed Braddy's confession to their supervisor, and went to breakfast. The detectives returned to the interview room at approximately 11:30 a.m. with breakfast for Braddy. When Detective Suco walked into the interview room, Braddy was standing on a chair in the corner of the room with his shoes off. Braddy immediately jumped to the ground and, before Detective Suco could speak, said "I'll take you to where I left her."
The detectives drove Braddy north from Miami-Dade County on U.S. Highway 27, through Broward County and into Palm Beach County, to the site where Shandelle had been found, a scene which was already teeming with authorities. At Braddy's direction, the detectives drove along the dirt roads and through the fields off the highway for approximately three hours, with other detectives following, but found no trace of Quatisha. At approximately 2:30 p.m., after detectives had been led on a vain search by Braddy for several hours, Detective Greg Smith physically pulled Braddy out of the car and pinned Braddy against the side of the car by placing his forearm across Braddy's throat. Detective Smith held Braddy in this position for approximately fifteen seconds, demanding to know where Braddy had left Quatisha. Braddy gave no response-either verbal or physical-to Detective Smith's use of force and emotional plea. Having received no information despite his use of force, Detective Smith, along with Braddy and several other detectives, resumed the search for Quatisha on foot. During the foot search, Detective Smith engaged Braddy in a general conversation regarding his family and hobbies. At one point, Braddy asked Detective Smith how long it would take a body in the water to surface, speculating that although he had left Quatisha alive, she might have fallen into the water after he left her.
At approximately 4 p.m. on November 8, Braddy admitted to Detective Pat Diaz that Quatisha was in fact at a different location. Braddy then directed several detectives to a section of Interstate 75 in Broward County known as Alligator Alley. Once at Alligator Alley, Braddy told detectives that he had left Quatisha alive on the side of the road at a bridge crossing over a canal. Braddy directed detectives to three such bridges-at highway mile markers 28, 30, and 33-but could not be sure at which bridge he had left Quatisha. Braddy gave different reasons for having left Quatisha on the side of the road in the Everglades in the middle of the night, including that he did so because he was angry with Shandelle and because he was worried that Quatisha would tell people what he had done to Shandelle. Braddy also admitted that when he left Quatisha, he "knew she would probably die" and that when she had not been found by Sunday evening, she was probably dead.
After searching until dark on November 8 and finding no trace of Quatisha, detectives escorted Braddy back to the Miami-Dade County Police Department. Detectives took Braddy back to the interview room where he had originally been kept-a room that had not been touched since Braddy occupied it earlier in the day. Upon entering the room, detectives noticed that a metal ceiling grate in the corner of the room-directly above the chair on which Braddy had been standing earlier in the day-had been forcibly bent up on both ends. Braddy was taken to a different interview room and again questioned by detectives, but Braddy never admitted to killing Quatisha. On the morning of Monday, November 9, two fishermen found the body of a child floating in a canal running parallel to Alligator Alley, around highway mile marker 34. The body was recovered, taken to the Broward County Medical Examiner's office, and identified as that of Quatisha Maycock.
Dr. Joshua Perper, the Chief Medical Examiner for Broward County, was called to the scene where Quatisha's body was found. He examined the body initially when it was brought out of the canal and later performed an autopsy. Dr. Perper testified that Quatisha's left arm, which was missing when her body was discovered, had been bitten off by an alligator after Quatisha had died. Dr. Perper also testified that Quatisha had suffered "brush burn" injuries while she was alive, consistent with her having grazed against a hard, flat surface, such as falling out of a car and sliding on the road. Additionally, Dr. Perper testified that Quatisha had suffered alligator bites to her torso and head while she was still alive, although he concluded that she was probably not conscious at the time she was bitten. Quatisha had also suffered several injuries after she had died or while she was very close to death, including more "brush burns" and alligator bites, as well as injuries to her lips consistent with fish feeding on her corpse. Dr. Perper concluded that Quatisha's death was primarily caused by blunt force trauma to the left side of her head, consistent with her either having fallen from a great distance or having been thrown onto a prominent, protruding object, such as the jutting rocks along the canal where her body was discovered.

Id. at 822-26 (alteration in original).

         At the penalty phase, the State presented victim impact evidence from three relatives or close friends of the victim, including the victim's mother, Shandelle. The State also presented evidence of Braddy's prior criminal history, including the following 1984 crimes: (1) the judgment and sentence from Braddy's attempted first-degree murder, robbery, and kidnapping of Corrections Officer Jose Bermudez, as well as of Braddy's ensuing escape; (2) the arrest affidavit and plea colloquy from Braddy's convictions for armed burglary, robbery, and kidnapping related to his crimes against Joseph and Lorrain Cole; and (3) the judgment and sentence from Braddy's burglary, robbery, and kidnapping of Griffin Davis. The defense presented expert testimony regarding Braddy's ability to adjust to prison life. The defense also presented testimony from Braddy's family and a close friend to establish that Braddy was a good husband and father and that his death would be hard on the family. Id. at 826-27.

         The jury recommended the death penalty by a vote of eleven to one, and after a Spencer v. State, 615 So.2d 688 (Fla. 1993), hearing, the trial court sentenced Braddy to death. The trial court found and gave great weight to five aggravating factors: (1) the victim of the capital felony was a person less than twelve years of age; (2) the capital felony was committed while Braddy was engaged in the commission of a felony crime, namely: kidnapping; (3) the capital felony was committed for the purpose of avoiding or preventing a lawful arrest or effecting an escape from custody; (4) the capital felony was a homicide and was committed in a cold, calculated, and premeditated manner without any pretense of moral or legal justification (CCP); and (5) Braddy was previously convicted of another capital felony or of a felony involving the use or threat of violence to another person. The trial court also considered but gave no weight to the fact that the capital felony was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel (HAC). Braddy waived all mitigating factors, with the exception of nonstatutory mitigation. Braddy listed a total of sixty-seven nonstatutory mitigating factors in his sentencing memorandum, which the trial court then grouped into nine categories by topic. The trial court gave little or moderate weight to eight of the categories: (1) Braddy had adjusted well to prolonged confinement in his previous incarcerations and might possibly be rehabilitated-little weight; (2) the sentence of life imprisonment was available to the court-little weight; (3) Braddy conducted himself in an appropriate manner at trial-moderate weight; (4) the friends in Braddy's life considered him to be of value-little weight; (5) Braddy's wife and children supported him unconditionally-moderate weight; (6) Braddy's execution would presumably have an extreme impact on his family and friends- little weight; (7) Braddy's parents and siblings considered him to be an important member of the family and believed that his life could be of value to other members of the family-little weight; and (8) Braddy attended church and professed dedication to Christian principles and beliefs-little weight. With respect to the remaining category, the trial court considered but gave no weight to the fact that Braddy did not sexually molest Quatisha. Braddy, 111 So.3d at 827-28.

         Braddy raised thirteen claims on direct appeal: (A) the trial court erred in denying Braddy's motion to suppress evidence obtained in violation of his right to remain silent and his right to an attorney; (B) the trial court erred in failing to timely rule on and ultimately denying Braddy's motions to disqualify the trial judge; (C) the State failed to establish the venue alleged in the indictment for the charges of murder and attempted murder; (D) the trial court erred in admitting into evidence the second search warrant for the Town Car and the accompanying affidavit; (E) the trial court erred in denying Braddy's motion for mistrial based on Detective Milito's prejudicial testimony regarding Braddy's prior criminal history; (F) the trial court erred in allowing the State to engage in improper argument during its guilt phase closing argument; (G) the evidence is legally insufficient to support Braddy's convictions for burglary, child neglect, and attempted escape; (H) the trial court erred in allowing the State to engage in improper argument during its penalty phase closing argument; (I) the trial court erred in requiring Braddy to argue all nonstatutory mitigation as a single mitigating factor; (J) the trial court erred in allowing the State to present victim impact evidence that Shandelle had contracted Crohn's disease as a result of the murder; (K) the trial court erred in allowing the State to introduce impermissible hearsay evidence to prove Braddy's prior felony convictions; (L) the trial court erred in sentencing Braddy to death because Florida's capital sentencing proceedings are unconstitutional under Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584 (2002); and (M) the cumulative effect of the above errors deprived Braddy of due process and a reliable sentencing proceeding. Braddy, 111 So.3d at 828-29. This Court determined that sufficient evidence supported the convictions and denied all of Braddy's claims. Id. at 829-62.

         Capital Collateral Regional Counsel-South (CCRC) was appointed to represent Braddy in postconviction proceedings. On October 2, 2014, Braddy timely filed a motion for postconviction relief. Braddy's motion asserted: (1) the postconviction court's denial of CCRC's motion to withdraw violates Braddy's rights to conflict-free counsel, due process, and equal protection; (2) the postconviction court's refusal to allow Braddy to represent himself in collateral proceedings violates Braddy's right of self-representation; (3) requiring Braddy to file his postconviction motion one year after his conviction became final violates Braddy's rights to due process and equal protection; (4) section 119.19, Florida Statutes, and Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.852 are unconstitutional both facially and as applied to Braddy in violation of article I, section 24 of the Florida Constitution; (5) Braddy was deprived of his right to a fair and impartial jury; (6) Braddy was deprived of his right to a reliable adversarial testing at the guilt phase due to ineffective assistance of counsel, the State's failure to disclose exculpatory evidence, and prosecutorial and judicial misconduct; (7) Braddy was denied adversarial testing at the penalty phase due to ineffective assistance of counsel and/or State misconduct; and (8) Florida's method of execution by lethal injection is unconstitutional.

         On February 19, 2015, the postconviction court entered an order denying Braddy's claims. State v. Braddy, No. F98-37767 (Fla. 11th Jud. Cir. Feb. 19, 2015) (Postconviction Order). On appeal, Braddy argues that: (1) the postconviction court's denial of CCRC's motion to withdraw and/or failure to hold Nelson[1] hearings on two of Braddy's pro se motions to discharge CCRC[2] violated Braddy's rights to conflict-free counsel, due process, and equal protection; (2) section 119.19, Florida Statutes, and Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.852 are unconstitutional as applied to Braddy in violation of article I, section 24 of the Florida Constitution; (3) Braddy was denied adversarial testing at the penalty phase due to ineffective assistance of counsel and/or State misconduct; (4) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to preserve a challenge to comments made by the prosecution during its guilt phase closing argument and penalty phase closing argument; (5) Braddy was deprived of his right to a fair and impartial jury; and (6) Braddy was deprived of his right to a reliable adversarial testing at the guilt phase due to ineffective assistance of counsel, the State's failure to disclose exculpatory evidence, and prosecutorial and judicial misconduct.[3] In addition, Braddy filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, asserting that: (1) Braddy is entitled to relief under Hurst v. Florida; (2) this Court failed to conduct a proper harmless error analysis of errors recognized on direct appeal; and (3) Braddy was deprived of his right to a fair and impartial jury. Because we determine that Braddy is entitled to a new penalty phase under Hurst v. Florida and Hurst, we address only Braddy's guilt phase claims and none of the other penalty phase claims.


         A. CCRC's Motion to Withdraw and Braddy's Pro Se Motions to Discharge

         Braddy claims that the postconviction court's denial of CCRC's motion to withdraw and/or failure to hold Nelson hearings on two of Braddy's pro se motions to discharge CCRC violated his rights to conflict-free counsel, due process, and equal protection. "A court's decision involving withdrawal or discharge of counsel is subject to review for abuse of discretion." Weaver v. State, 894 So.2d 178, 187 (Fla. 2004). As explained below, the postconviction court did not err regarding the motion to withdraw or the motions to discharge.

         Section 27.703(1), Florida Statutes (2013), "places the responsibility of determining whether an actual conflict exists on the [sentencing] court." Abdool v. Bondi, 141 So.3d 529, 553 (Fla. 2014) (emphasis added). The statute provides:

If, at any time during the representation of a person, the capital collateral regional counsel alleges that the continued representation of that person creates an actual conflict of interest, the sentencing court shall, upon determining that an actual conflict exists, designate another regional counsel. . . . An actual conflict of interest exists when an attorney actively represents conflicting interests. A possible, speculative, or merely ...

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