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Franklin v. State

Supreme Court of Florida

February 15, 2018



         An Appeal from the Circuit Court in and for Lake County, Mark J. Hill, Judge - Case No. 352002CF000217AXXXXX

          James Vincent Viggiano, Jr., Capital Collateral Regional Counsel, Maria Christine Perinetti, Raheela Ahmed, Reuben Andrew Neff, and Lisa Marie Bort, Assistant Capital Collateral Regional Counsel, Middle Region, Temple Terrace, Florida, for Appellant

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, Florida, and Stephen D. Ake, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Tampa, Florida, for Appellee

          PER CURIAM.

         Quawn M. Franklin appeals an order of the circuit court summarily denying a motion to vacate his sentence of death under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.851. We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 3(b)(1), Fla. Const. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the postconviction court's summary denial of Franklin's postconviction motion.


         Franklin was convicted of attempted robbery and first-degree murder in the shooting death of Jerry Lawley. Franklin v. State (Franklin I), 965 So.2d 79, 84-86 (Fla. 2007). After the penalty phase, the jury unanimously recommended death. Id. at 87. At Franklin's request, the jury returned a special interrogatory verdict form indicating that it unanimously found each of the four proposed aggravators. Id. at 102.[1] The trial court followed the jury's recommendation and imposed a death sentence. In doing so, the trial court found the same four aggravating factors and concluded that the aggravators outweighed the mitigating factors. Id. at 88.[2] This Court affirmed Franklin's conviction and death sentence on direct appeal. Id. at 102.[3]

         On November 7, 2008, Franklin filed his first rule 3.851 motion in the circuit court and moved for a competency determination. Franklin v. State (Franklin II), 137 So.3d 969, 977 (Fla. 2014). On June 3, 2010, the trial court found Franklin competent to proceed. Id. Franklin then amended his postconviction motion, raising eleven claims. Id.[4] The postconviction court summarily denied claims three through eight, as well as claim ten. Id. at 977-78. Following an evidentiary hearing, the postconviction court denied claims one, two, nine, and eleven. Id. at 978. Franklin sought relief in this Court, raising three claims, and filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus that raised two claims.[5] This Court affirmed the postconviction court's order. Id. at 987.

         Franklin filed a successive postconviction motion on January 9, 2017, raising two claims: (1) his death sentence is unconstitutional under Hurst v. Florida, 136 S.Ct. 616 (2016), and (2) his death sentence stands in violation of the Eighth Amendment under Hurst v. Florida. The postconviction court denied the motion, finding that "the Hurst error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt as the jury returned an interrogatory verdict unanimously agreeing that each of the four aggravating factors were present and unanimously recommending that death was the appropriate sentence given the substantial aggravation and slight mitigation presented." Franklin appealed the postconviction court's order on April 28, 2017. On June 20, 2017, this Court issued an order directing the parties to file briefs addressing why the ruling should not be affirmed in light of this Court's precedent in Hurst.


         Franklin argues that his death sentence violates the Sixth Amendment under Hurst v. Florida, 136 S.Ct. 616 (2016). In Hurst v. State, 202 So.3d 40, 57 (Fla. 2016), we explained that Hurst v. Florida requires "the jury in a capital case [to] unanimously and expressly find all the aggravating factors that were proven beyond a reasonable doubt, unanimously find that the aggravating factors are sufficient to impose death, unanimously find that the aggravating factors outweigh the mitigating circumstances, and unanimously recommend a sentence of death." We also determined that Hurst error is capable of harmless error review. Id. at 67. Therefore, the issue in this case is whether any Hurst error during Franklin's penalty phase proceedings was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Id. at 68.

         Franklin's penalty phase jury found the existence of each aggravator unanimously and made a unanimous recommendation of death using an interrogatory verdict form. Such a recommendation "allow[s] us to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that a rational jury would have unanimously found that there were sufficient aggravators to outweigh the mitigating factors." Davis v. State, 207 So.3d 142, 174 (Fla. 2016). Although the jury was not properly instructed under Hurst, and despite the mitigation presented, the jury still unanimously recommended that Franklin be sentenced to death for the murder of Lawley. Therefore, any Hurst error in Franklin's penalty phase was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt and the postconviction court properly denied relief on this claim.

         Franklin also contends that a unanimous jury recommendation violates the Eighth Amendment pursuant to Caldwell v. Mississippi, 472 U.S. 320 (1985), when a jury is repeatedly told that its role is advisory. Franklin further claims that his death sentence violates the Eighth Amendment under Hurst because the standard jury instructions improperly diminished the jury's role. Franklin's Caldwell claim is procedurally barred because he did not raise it on direct appeal. See Jones v. State, 928 So.2d 1178, 1182 n.5 (Fla. 2006). To the extent that Franklin's claim about the standard jury instructions is a Hurst claim, he ...

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