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Glover v. State

Supreme Court of Florida

September 14, 2017

DENNIS T. GLOVER, Appellant,


         An Appeal from the Circuit Court in and for Duval County, Mallory Durden Cooper, Judge - Case No. 162012CF006463AXXXMA

          Brian W. Stull, Senior Staff Attorney, and Anna Arceneaux, Staff Attorney, American Civil Liberties Union, Capital Punishment Project, Durham, North Carolina; Nancy G. Abudu of American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Florida, Inc., Miami, Florida; and N. Adam Tebrugge, Bradenton, Florida, for Appellant.

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, and Berdene Beckles, Assistant Attorney General, Tallahassee, Florida; and Donna M. Perry, Assistant Attorney General, West Palm Beach, Florida, for Appellee.

          PER CURIAM.

         Dennis T. Glover appeals his conviction for first-degree murder and his sentence of death. We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 3(b)(1), Fla. Const. For the reasons below, we affirm Glover's conviction but vacate his sentence and remand for a new penalty phase.


         The evidence presented at trial established that Glover, Brenda LaCounte, Mary and Daryl Alvin, and the victim, Sandra Allen, were all neighbors on a deadend street in Jacksonville, Florida, with LaCounte and Allen living across from each other at the dead end. On the morning of May 30, 2012, at approximately 7 a.m., while sitting on her front porch, LaCounte saw a dark-skinned black male of medium height, generally matching Glover's description, enter the front door of Allen's trailer. The man did not come back outside during the approximately fifteen minutes that LaCounte remained on her porch. That same morning, Mary Alvin (Mary) saw Glover walk past her house toward the dead end of their street three separate times: the first time between 8 and 9 a.m., the second time somewhat later, and the final time between 10 and 11 a.m. Neither LaCounte nor Mary saw anyone else or any vehicles on their street that morning, although according to Mary, there were generally "[a]lways vehicles going back and forth from [Allen's] residence."

         Shortly after the third time that Mary saw Glover walk past her house toward the dead end of the street, Glover rang her doorbell. "[H]ollering" and "in distress, " Glover told Mary and her husband, Daryl Alvin (Daryl), that "somebody's killed Jeremy's mom, " referring to the victim, Sandra Allen. When the Alvins, accompanied by Glover, ran across the street to the victim's trailer (which she shared with one of her daughters), they found the front door pushed open and the victim lying on the floor near the front door, on her back, naked from the waist down, her shorts and underwear around her right ankle, with blood coming out of the back of her head.

         After entering the trailer to try and render aid to the victim, and touching the victim's neck but finding no pulse, Daryl became concerned that the victim's daughter might also be in danger, so he searched the trailer and determined that she was not at home.[1] While Daryl was inside the trailer, Mary remained on the porch with Glover, who did not enter the trailer. Mary observed no bloody footprints on the porch, and Daryl did not get any blood on his shoes or clothing while he was inside the trailer.

         Law enforcement responded to the scene following a 911 call. The ensuing investigation revealed Glover's touch DNA on the victim's head, neck, and left hand, the victim's blood in fourteen different locations on the tops of Glover's shoes (which were photographed and inspected the day the victim's body was found but not collected until the following day), and no bloody footprints at the crime scene visible to the naked eye or with an alternate light source. Glover was arrested and charged with Allen's first-degree murder.

         At trial, the medical examiner testified that the victim's cause of death was exsanguination resulting from stab wounds to her neck, but that strangulation also contributed by depriving the victim of oxygen and making it easier and quicker for her to die. More specifically, the victim was stabbed twelve times in the front of her neck, likely by a single-edged knife, [2] and had several blunt force injuries to the same area, along with several scrapes and abrasions. Four of the stab wounds were fatal, severing the victim's jugular vein and cutting her carotid and vertebral arteries. In addition, the victim was manually strangled with enough force to break her hyoid bone, fracture her thyroid cartilage, and crush her voice box. Although the medical examiner testified that there were no injuries on the victim's hands, there were cuts in her shirt that did not correspond to wounds on her body, indicating either that her shirt was bunched up, with a few stabs creating multiple holes, or that her shirt was pushed up around her neck, where she was stabbed multiple times. The medical examiner testified that the victim sustained all of her injuries at or near the same time and that it would have taken a small number of minutes or a large number of seconds for her to die.

         In addition to the medical examiner's testimony regarding the victim's clothes, Glover's own bloodstain and blood spatter expert testified to evidence evincing a struggle. Specifically, Glover's expert testified that the blood flowed from the victim's injuries while she was in different positions and that blood spatter low on a wall indicated that the victim sustained some of her injuries in a position between standing up and lying down.

         Although the medical examiner testified that there were no injuries to the victim's vagina or anal area, the DNA expert testified that a trace amount of semen was present on the victim's genital swab, but it was not enough material to test. In addition to Glover's touch DNA on the victim's head, neck, and left hand, which the DNA expert testified was not likely left by casual contact, the DNA expert testified that although there was a DNA mixture on the victim's right hand with three contributors (one of whom she expected to be the victim), the sample was not sufficient for testing and therefore could not exclude or include anyone.[3] The DNA expert further testified that of the six hairs found on the victim, DNA testing was performed on the one from her vaginal swab, which was found to match the victim, but that testing was not performed on any of the other hairs in light of the blood and touch DNA evidence of higher probative value. The DNA expert confirmed that other environmental items, such as soda cans, cups, cigarette butts, a glove, and tools were collected from the scene but not tested.

         Faced with the State's circumstantial case against Glover, in his opening statement, defense counsel foreshadowed what was to be Glover's reasonable hypothesis of innocence: that the DNA evidence connected Glover to the victim but not to her murder. More specifically, defense counsel argued that the evidence would show that Glover and Allen were involved in a sexual relationship and had sexual contact the morning of her murder; that Glover left the victim alive after she told him she was expecting visitors; that Glover later heard a scream or commotion from the area of the victim's trailer, looked that way, and saw two African American individuals run from the victim's home, get into a vehicle, and drive away; that Glover then went to the victim's home and found the front door ajar and the victim lying on the floor with blood pooling around her, some of which got on his shoes; and that Glover then ran over to the Alvins' home.

         In support of his explanation for the victim's blood on his shoes, Glover presented the testimony of a forensic consultant and expert in crime scene reconstruction, bloodstains, and blood spatter analysis. Glover's expert testified that in addition to the possibility that the victim's blood got on Glover's shoes when he murdered the victim, there were two innocent possibilities: first, that Glover stepped in blood when he found the victim, blood splashed on his shoe, and the blood continued to pool and covered his footprint, or, second, that an item dropped in the pooled blood and splashed his shoes when Glover found the victim. Regarding the possibility that Glover innocently stepped in the victim's blood, Glover's expert acknowledged that there was no evidence of Glover's leaving a footprint when he stepped out of the blood as would have been expected, but the expert also faulted law enforcement for failing to use luminol or amido black in addition to the alternate light source that law enforcement used to look for footprints. Regarding the two items that could have dropped into the victim's blood-a shoe and a pair of eyeglasses-Glover's expert testified that he did not see anything that would allow him to testify "with certainty" that the shoe was dropped in the blood, and while he also could not "totally rule it out, " he would not expect the glasses to be heavy enough to generate the spatter present on Glover's shoes.

         The defense rested without presenting or eliciting on cross-examination any evidence establishing a relationship between Glover and Allen or placing him in her home prior to the murder. To the contrary, Allen's daughter, who lived with Allen but was away from home when the murder occurred, testified that Allen did not "have any kind of relationship with [Glover]" and that, to her knowledge, Glover had never been inside their home. Before the defense rested, Glover exercised his right not to testify after inquiry by the trial court, during which Glover confirmed that he understood "there [would] be no other evidence presented."

         On December 12, 2013, Glover's jury found him guilty of first-degree premeditated murder.[4]

         During the penalty phase, the State introduced Glover's three prior felony convictions from the State of Georgia for a 1984 attempted armed robbery and aggravated assault (during which Glover shot at the victim) and a 1992 aggravated assault (during which Glover assaulted the victim with a wrench). The State also presented victim impact testimony of four of the victim's family members and several photographs of the victim, both alone and with family members.

         Glover presented the testimony of his fiancée and numerous family members, including five of his seven living siblings. Glover's counsel further read into the record several letters from Glover to his biological daughter, with whom he had reunited following his arrest; a letter from Glover's biological daughter to the court; and a report establishing Glover's lack of disciplinary issues while in jail awaiting trial.

         Glover also presented testimony of a doctor of family medicine, Dr. Jossie Burton, who never personally treated Glover but worked for the clinic where Glover received treatment from July 2009 through February 2012. Dr. Burton relied on her office's records to testify that Glover had bipolar disorder, diabetes, and hypertension and that he had problems sleeping and with pain. Dr. Burton further testified that in addition to medication for his diabetes and hypertension, Glover had been prescribed medication to treat his mood disorder. Dr. Burton testified that Glover's prescriptions, including his bipolar medications, were refilled at his last visit, in February 2012 (approximately three and a half months before the victim's murder).

         In addition to Dr. Burton, Glover presented the testimony of forensic psychologist Dr. Jerry Valente, who testified that Glover "falls on the cusp of the borderline to intellectually disabled range" based upon a full-scale IQ score of 72 that Glover achieved on a 2013 IQ test. Dr. Valente further diagnosed Glover with borderline intellectual functioning, polysubstance dependence, psychoactive substance abuse, bipolar disorder, major depression recurrent with psychotic features, and borderline personality (but not rising to the level of borderline personality disorder).

         The State did not present any rebuttal testimony. Following inquiry by the trial court, Glover waived his right to testify to his penalty phase jury.

         On December 20, 2013, the jury recommended the death penalty by a vote of ten to two.

         A Spencer[5] hearing was held on March 7, 2014, at which Glover presented one witness who verified that Glover still had not received any disciplinary reports from the jail. In addition, defense counsel filed several records with the court, including Dr. Valente's forensic report, Glover's school records, mental health records from several different facilities, five letters from Glover evincing his loving relationship with his biological daughter, and Glover's substance abuse class attendance card from the jail. Thereafter, defense counsel presented a brief legal argument asking the court to consider Glover's impoverished upbringing and lack of role models, connections with his loving family, and his mentoring of younger jail inmates, along with other issues that would be addressed in the defense sentencing memorandum.

         Glover, who had not previously testified, also made the following statement: "I want to state for the record that I still maintain my innocence, but I want to express my sympathy for the victim and their family because that was a great loss to them. That's all I have to say."

         The State presented no evidence or argument but stated that it would be submitting a sentencing memorandum.

         Approximately one month after the sentencing memoranda were filed, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in Hall v. Florida, 134 S.Ct. 1986 (2014), invalidating Florida's bright-line rule precluding defendants with IQs above 70 from establishing intellectual disability as a bar to execution. In light of Hall, defense counsel filed a motion for a new penalty phase or, alternatively, to reopen the Spencer hearing to address intellectual disability. Defense counsel also subsequently filed a notice alleging that Glover's intellectual disability barred his execution. The trial court denied Glover's request for a new penalty phase but granted his request to reopen the Spencer hearing.

         By this time, Glover's relationship with his defense counsel had deteriorated, and Glover's refusals to meet with his defense counsel or submit to additional mental health evaluations complicated the progress of the reopened Spencer hearing. Despite urging from both defense counsel and the trial court, Glover never submitted to an evaluation by his or the State's mental health expert for purposes of providing additional information relevant to his intellectual disability claim. Ultimately, however, three additional hearings were held as part of the reopened Spencer hearing, on August 21, 2014, and May 1 and May 29, 2015, at which the trial court heard testimony from one of Glover's brothers, Glover's mental health expert Dr. Larry Neidigh, and the State's mental health expert, Dr. Gregory Prichard. Glover's expert testified that he could not definitively say that Glover is intellectually disabled, and the State's expert testified that Glover is not intellectually disabled.

         Thereafter, in a detailed sentencing order, the trial court found that Glover is not intellectually disabled, concluded that the aggravating circumstances[6]outweighed the mitigating circumstances, [7] and sentenced Glover to death in accordance with the jury's recommendation.


         Glover raises the following guilt phase issues on appeal: (1) whether the evidence is sufficient to support his conviction; (2) whether the trial court erred in excluding evidence of the victim's drug use; (3) whether pretrial complaints Glover made about discovery and communication with defense counsel should have triggered an inquiry into counsel's effectiveness pursuant to Nelson v. State, 274 So.2d 256 (Fla. 4th DCA 1973); and (4) whether defense counsel was ineffective. As the fifth and sixth issues, we review two more of Glover's claims, namely, whether the trial court erred in finding that Glover is not intellectually disabled and whether Glover is entitled to relief pursuant to Hurst v. State, 202 So.3d 40 (Fla. 2016), cert. denied, 137 S.Ct. 2161 (2017).[8]

         1. ...

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