Appeal from the Circuit Court in and for Escambia County,
Edward P. Nickinson, III, Judge - Case No.
171993CF000870XXXAXX And an Original Proceeding - Habeas
S. Friedman, Capital Collateral Regional Counsel, Stacy
Biggart and Kathleen Pafford, Assistant Capital Collateral
Regional Counsel, Northern Region, Tallahassee, Florida;
Billy H. Nolas, Chief, and Kimberly Sharkey, Attorney,
Capital Habeas Unit, Office of the Federal Public Defender,
Northern District of Florida, Tallahassee, Florida, for
Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Charmaine M. Millsaps, Senior
Assistant Attorney General, and Lisa A. Hopkins, Assistant
Attorney General, Tallahassee, Florida, for
Scott Branch, a prisoner under sentence of death with an
active death warrant, appeals a circuit court order summarily
denying his second successive motion for postconviction
relief filed pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure
3.851 and petitions this Court for a writ of habeas corpus.
We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 3(b)(1),
(9), Fla. Const. For the following reasons, we affirm the
circuit court's denial of the motion and deny the habeas
AND RELEVANT PROCEDURAL HISTORY
was convicted of first-degree murder, sexual battery, and
grand theft in connection with the killing of Susan Morris.
Branch v. State (Branch I), 685 So.2d 1250
(Fla. 1996), cert. denied, 520 U.S. 1218 (1997). We
described the facts of the murder on direct appeal as
Eric Branch was wanted by police in Indiana and because the
car he was driving, a Pontiac, could be traced to him, he
decided to steal a car from the campus of the University of
West Florida [(UWF)] in Pensacola. When Susan Morris, a young
college student, approached her car after attending an
evening class [on] January 11, 1993, Branch accosted her and
stole her red Toyota. Morris's nude body was found later
in nearby woods; she had been beaten, stomped, sexually
assaulted and strangled. She bore numerous bruises and
lacerations, both eyes were swollen shut, and a wooden stick
was broken off in her vagina.
Id. at 1251-52. The jury recommended a sentence of
death by a vote of ten to two, and the trial court followed
that recommendation. Id. at 1252. The trial court
found the existence of three aggravating
factors and four mitigating
circumstances. Id. at 1252. On direct appeal, we
affirmed Branch's convictions and sentences. Id.
at 1253. In 2006, we affirmed the circuit court's denial
of Branch's initial motion for postconviction relief and
denied his initial petition for writ of habeas corpus.
Branch v. State (Branch II), 952 So.2d 470,
473 (Fla. 2006).
subsequently filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in
the United States District Court for the Northern District of
Florida. Branch v. McDonough (Branch III),
779 F.Supp.2d 1309 (N.D. Fla. 2010). The federal district
court denied the petition, but issued a limited certificate
of appealability. Id. at 1330. The United States
Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the
judgment denying federal habeas corpus relief. Branch v.
Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr. (Branch IV),
638 F.3d 1353, 1356 (11th Cir. 2011).
2016, we affirmed the circuit court's denial of
Branch's motion for postconviction DNA testing filed
pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.853 and
section 925.11, Florida Statutes (2015). Branch v.
State (Branch V), No. SC15-1869, 2016 WL
4182823 (Fla. Aug. 8, 2016). On January 22, 2018, we affirmed
the circuit court's denial of Branch's first
successive motion for postconviction relief. Branch v.
State (Branch VI), No. SC17-1509, 2018 WL
495024 (Fla. Jan. 22, 2018).
January 19, 2018, Governor Rick Scott signed a death warrant
for Branch and scheduled his execution for February 22, 2018.
On January 29, 2018, Branch filed his second successive
motion for postconviction relief, raising two claims. First,
Branch contended that because he was twenty-one years old at
the time of the murder,  executing him would violate the Eighth
Amendment to the United States Constitution based upon
Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005). In
Roper, the United States Supreme Court held that
executing individuals who were under the age of eighteen at
the time of their crimes is prohibited by the Eighth and
Fourteenth Amendments. Id. at 578-79. Branch
asserted (1) there is an emerging consensus in the medical
community that the brain continues to develop through the
mid-twenties, such that young adults are cognitively
comparable to juveniles, and this consensus constitutes newly
discovered evidence; (2) a national consensus has developed
that individuals who were in their late teens and early
twenties at the time of their crimes should not be executed;
and (3) the criminal laws of other states and international
law generally reflect that offenders who were in their late
teens and early twenties at the time of their crimes are
treated differently than older offenders. Branch additionally
contended that the physical, emotional, and sexual trauma he
suffered during his childhood and young adulthood, coupled
with substance abuse, further impaired and delayed his brain
development. Branch's second claim was that the length of
time he has spent on death row constitutes cruel and unusual
punishment under the Eighth Amendment.
February 1, 2018, the circuit court denied Branch's
motion without an evidentiary hearing and denied Branch's
application for stay of execution. This appeal follows.
Branch also filed with this Court a motion for stay of
execution and a successive petition for writ of habeas
corpus, challenging the prior violent felony aggravating
factor found by the trial court.
first challenges the circuit court's denial of his
requests for public records pursuant to Florida Rule of
Criminal Procedure 3.852. We have explained:
[The] denial of public records requests are reviewed under
the abuse of discretion standard. See Dennis v.
State, 109 So.3d 680, 698 (Fla. 2012); Diaz v.
State, 945 So.2d 1136, 1149 (Fla. 2006).
"Discretion is abused only when the judicial action is
arbitrary, fanciful, or unreasonable, which is another way of
saying that discretion is abused only where no reasonable
person would take the view adopted by the trial court."
State v. Coney, 845 So.2d 120, 137 (Fla. 2003)
(quoting White v. State, 817 So.2d 799, 806 (2002)).
The Court has long acknowledged that the public records
procedure under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.852
"is not intended to be a procedure authorizing a fishing
expedition for records unrelated to a colorable claim for
postconviction relief." Valle [v.
State, 70 So.3d 530, 549 (Fla. 2011)] (quoting Moore
v. State, 820 So.2d 199, 204 (Fla. 2002) (quoting
Glock v. Moore, 776 So.2d 243, 253 (Fla. 2001))).
Muhammad v. State, 132 So.3d 176, 200 (Fla. 2013). A
defendant "bears the burden of demonstrating that the
records sought relate to a colorable claim for postconviction
relief." Chavez v. State, 132 So.3d 826, 829
(Fla. 2014) (citing Mann v. ...