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Burton v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

December 13, 2017

Thomas Garrard Burton, Appellant,
v.
The State of Florida, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

         An Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, Alberto Milian, Judge. Lower Tribunal No. 14-11822

          Carlos J. Martinez, Public Defender, and Robert Kalter, Assistant Public Defender, for appellant.

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, and Marlon J. Weiss, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Before EMAS, LOGUE and LUCK, JJ.

          LUCK, J.

         Thomas Garrard Burton murdered Carlos Figueroa during a botched robbery. A jury convicted Burton of first degree murder, and he was sentenced to a mandatory term of life in prison. Burton appeals the trial court's decision to admit a video recording of his confession where he was wearing jail clothes and handcuffs. Because the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding that the unfair prejudice of the jury seeing Burton in jail clothes and handcuffs did not substantially outweigh the probative value of the video confession, we affirm.

         Factual Background and Procedural History

         The murder. On the morning of November 6, 2002, Carlos Figueroa was sitting outside his apartment with his son and another man, Antonio Carrero, drinking coffee, when a car pulled up. There were two people in the car - a driver and his passenger. The passenger got out of the car and asked the three men drinking coffee for directions. They gave the passenger directions and the car went on its way.

         The car returned a few minutes later. This time, the passenger got out of the car holding a gun and yelled to the three men, "don't move." The passenger pointed the gun at Figueroa. Figueroa had trouble getting his wallet out of his pocket, so the passenger hit Figueroa on the head with the firearm three times. The passenger then pointed the gun at Figueroa's son when, suddenly, Carrero ran away. The passenger fired three shots at the fleeing Carrero, but they all missed.

         The passenger then turned to Figueroa and shot him in the stomach. After this last shot, Figueroa's son struggled with the passenger for the gun. The passenger grabbed the son's wallet and cellular telephone, left the gun, and ran for the car, which drove away.

         Figueroa died six weeks later from the gunshot wound to his stomach. For over a decade, the passenger was not identified and the case was cold.

         The cold case investigation. In 2013, detectives with the Miami-Dade police department had the fingerprint examiner resubmit a latent fingerprint that had been found at the crime scene to the national database to see if there was a match. This time there was - to Burton. The Miami-Dade detectives met with Figueroa's son to conduct a photograph lineup. The son identified Burton as the passenger.

         By then, Burton was serving a prison sentence in Pennsylvania. The Miami-Dade detectives flew to Pennsylvania to meet with Burton. Burton was willing to talk, waived his Miranda[1] rights, and gave a video recorded statement. Burton told the detectives that his friend, George Covington, picked him up in a stolen car and the two drove to Figueroa's apartment. Covington got out of the car holding a gun and Burton followed. Burton explained that there was a physical altercation between Covington and the other men. Covington asked Figueroa for ...


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