RODRICK D. WILLIAMS, Petitioner,
STATE OF FLORIDA, Respondent.
FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING MOTION AND, IF
for Review of the Decision of the District Court of Appeal -
Certified Great Public Importance Fifth District - Case No.
5D16-1348 (St. Johns County)
Valarie Linnen, Atlantic Beach, Florida, for Petitioner.
Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, Florida, Wesley
Heidt, Bureau Chief, and Pamela J. Koller, Assistant Attorney
General, Daytona Beach, Florida, for Respondent.
case is before the Court for review of the decision of the
Fifth District Court of Appeal in Williams v. State
(Williams II), 211 So.3d 1070 (Fla. 5th DCA 2017).
In its decision, the Fifth District ruled upon the following
question certified to be of great public importance:
DOES ALLEYNE V. UNITED STATES, 570 U.S. 99, 133
S.Ct. 2151, 186 L.Ed.2d 314 (2013), REQUIRE THE JURY AND NOT
THE TRIAL COURT TO MAKE THE FACTUAL FINDING UNDER SECTION
775.082(1)(b), FLORIDA STATUTES (2016), AS TO WHETHER A
JUVENILE OFFENDER ACTUALLY KILLED, INTENDED TO KILL, OR
ATTEMPTED TO KILL THE VICTIM?
Id. at 1073. We have jurisdiction. See art.
V, § 3(b)(4), Fla. Const. For the reasons explained
below, we hold that Alleyne requires a jury to make
the factual finding, but conclude that Alleyne
violations are subject to harmless error review. Where the
error cannot be deemed harmless, the proper remedy is to
resentence the juvenile offender pursuant to section
775.082(1)(b)2., Florida Statutes (2016).
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
December 19, 2013, a jury found Petitioner Rodrick D.
Williams guilty of first-degree murder and kidnapping. During
the evening hours of April 26, 2010, and through the early
morning hours of April 27, 2010, victim James Vincent
Brookins was beaten and bound with duct tape at a "trap
house" in Jacksonville, then transported in the
trunk of a vehicle to a rural road in St. Johns County, where
he was shot twice. Two other individuals, Harry Henderson and
Sharina Parker, were also involved in the death of Brookins.
Williams and Parker were involved in a sexual relationship.
Although Henderson and Parker were adults at the time of the
murder, Williams was sixteen years old. The firearm used to
commit the murder was never located.
predominant evidence offered during trial to connect Williams
to the offenses included: (1) the police interrogation of
Williams, during which his mother was present and Williams
signed a Miranda waiver; (2) a text message purportedly
sent by Williams to Parker at 6:24 p.m. on April 26, in which
Williams stated, "Bae thx killah i cant talk cuz im round 2
many people but jus chill bae ima take care of yo problems
jus give me the greenlight"; and (3) the testimony of a
the interrogation, Williams contended it was Henderson who
shot Brookins. According to Williams, Parker called him
between 2 and 3 p.m. on April 26-less than five hours before
the text message was sent-and told him she had been robbed of
marijuana by a relative of Brookins during a drug
transaction, and Parker believed Brookins had "set her
up." Williams asserted that Parker and Henderson brought
Brookins to the trap house later that day in an attempt to
force him to give them money or disclose the location of his
safe, where Parker believed the stolen marijuana was stored.
Parker subsequently picked up Williams and drove him to the
trap house, where, upon entering the house, Williams saw
"blood all over" and Brookins begging for his life.
According to Williams, Henderson beat Brookins with a gun,
and Henderson and Parker bound his arms and legs and covered
his mouth with duct tape as Brookins screamed. Williams
stated that while at the trap house, Parker told him she and
Henderson planned to leave Brookins alive in the trunk of the
vehicle. Williams admitted he drove the vehicle
with Brookins in the trunk to the rural road while Henderson
and Parker rode in a separate vehicle. He stated that upon
arriving, Henderson wiped down the vehicle used to transport
Brookins, opened the trunk, and shot Brookins. Williams
asserted that he only participated in the offenses because he
feared he would be harmed if he refused.
contrast, during trial, the informant testified that while
they were housed together at the St. Johns County jail,
Williams admitted that he brought a gun to the trap house and
shot Brookins. According to the informant, Williams stated he
was involved in the plan to lure Brookins to the trap house
on the pretense of having gold teeth created and then force
him to disclose the location of his safe. Coincidentally,
prior to his interactions with Williams, the informant was
housed with codefendant Henderson at the St. Johns County
jail. The informant testified on cross-examination that
Henderson assisted him by filing a motion on his behalf with
respect to a drug-related charge and, as a result of
Henderson's assistance, the charge was dropped. However,
the informant testified that Henderson never spoke with him
about the Brookins homicide.
jury was instructed on both first-degree premeditated murder
and first-degree felony murder with robbery, attempted
robbery, kidnapping, and attempted kidnapping as the
underlying felonies; however, the verdict form did not
require the jury to specify the theory upon which it found
Williams guilty of first-degree murder. Upon conviction, the
trial court sentenced Williams to life imprisonment with the
possibility of parole in twenty-five years for the murder.
The court relied upon Horsley v. State (Horsley
I), 121 So.3d 1130 (Fla. 5th DCA 2013),
quashed, 160 So.3d 393 (Fla. 2015), in which the
Fifth District Court of Appeal addressed the implications of
Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), for Florida
sentencing law. See Williams v. State (Williams
I), 171 So.3d 143, 144-45 (Fla. 5th DCA 2015). Because
Miller determined "the Eighth Amendment forbids
a sentencing scheme that mandates life in prison without
possibility of parole for juvenile offenders, " 567 U.S.
at 479, the Fifth District in Horsley I held that in
Florida, the only sentence available for a juvenile offender
convicted of capital murder was life imprisonment with the
possibility of parole after twenty-five years. Williams
I, 171 So.3d at 144.
appeal, the Fifth District affirmed Williams's
convictions but reversed his sentence with respect to the
murder conviction. Id. The district court recognized
that while the trial court properly relied on Horsley
I when it imposed the sentence, this Court subsequently
granted review of Horsley I based upon a certified
question. Id. at 144-45. In Horsley v.
State (Horsley II), 160 So.3d 393 (Fla. 2015),
we held the appropriate remedy for juveniles whose sentences
are unconstitutional under Miller is to resentence
them in conformance with chapter 2014-220, Laws of Florida.
See Williams I, 171 So.3d at 144. Chapter 2014-220
was enacted to bring Florida juvenile sentencing law into
compliance with United States Supreme Court Eighth Amendment
jurisprudence. See Horsley II, 160 So.3d at 394. It
amended section 775.082(1), Florida Statutes, to provide, in
(b)1. A person who actually killed, intended to kill, or
attempted to kill the victim and who is convicted under s.
782.04 of a capital felony, or an offense that was
reclassified as a capital felony, which was committed before
the person attained 18 years of age shall be punished by a
term of imprisonment for life if, after a sentencing hearing
conducted by the court in accordance with s. 921.1401, the
court finds that life imprisonment is an appropriate
sentence. If the court finds that life imprisonment is not an
appropriate sentence, such person shall be punished by a term
of imprisonment of at least 40 years. A person sentenced
pursuant to this subparagraph is entitled to a review of his
or her sentence in accordance with s. 921.1402(2)(a).
2. A person who did not actually kill, intend to kill, or
attempt to kill the victim and who is convicted under s.
782.04 of a capital felony, or an offense that was
reclassified as a capital felony, which was committed before
the person attained 18 years of age may be punished by a term
of imprisonment for life or by a term of years equal to life
if, after a sentencing hearing conducted by the court in
accordance with s. 921.1401, the court finds that life
imprisonment is an appropriate sentence. A person who is
sentenced to a term of imprisonment of more than 15 years is
entitled to a review of his or her sentence in accordance
with s. 921.1402(2)(c).
Ch. 2014-220, § 1, Laws of Fla. The session law also
created section 921.1402, Florida Statutes (2017), which
provides, in pertinent part:
(2)(a) A juvenile offender sentenced under s. 775.082(1)(b)1.
is entitled to a review of his or her sentence after 25 years
[unless the juvenile offender has been previously convicted
of certain enumerated offenses that were part of a separate
criminal transaction or episode].
. . . .
(c) A juvenile offender sentenced to a term of more than 15
years under s. 775.082(1)(b)2., s. 775.082(3)(a)5.b., or s.
775.082(3)(b)2.b. is entitled to a review of his or her
sentence after 15 years.
Ch. 2014-220, § 3, Laws of Fla.
Fifth District in Williams I instructed the trial
court as follows:
On remand, the trial court shall hold an individualized
sentencing hearing . . . to consider the enumerated and other
pertinent factors "relevant to the offense and
[Williams's] youth and attendant circumstances." Ch.
2014-220, § 2, Laws of Fla. Because the jury did not
find that Williams actually possessed and discharged a
firearm during the crime, the court must make a written
finding as to whether Williams killed, intended to kill, or
attempted to kill the victim. Ch. 2014-220, § 1, Laws of
Fla. Based on that determination, after holding the
individualized hearing, the trial court may sentence Williams
to life imprisonment if it finds that life is an appropriate
sentence. Id. If the trial court determines that
life is not an appropriate sentence, then it should sentence
Williams to a term of at least forty years' imprisonment.
Id. Either way, unless Williams has a prior
conviction of a felony enumerated in section three of chapter
2014-220, Laws of Florida, arising out of a separate criminal
transaction or episode, he will receive a judicial review of
his sentence after fifteen or twenty-five years, depending on
the court's determination. See ch. 2014-220,
§ 3, Laws of Fla.
171 So.3d at 145 (second alteration in original).
September 30, 2015, Williams filed with the trial court a
Motion to Empanel Jury. Williams asserted that because the
finding that a juvenile offender actually killed, intended to
kill, or attempted to kill the victim leads to a minimum
forty-year sentence with a sentence review after twenty-five
years-whereas a finding that the offender did not actually
kill, intend to kill, or attempt to kill the victim results
in there being no minimum sentence and a sentence review
after fifteen years-Alleyne requires that this
factual determination be made by a jury beyond a reasonable
doubt. The trial court denied the motion on the basis that it
had been directed by the Fifth District to make the finding.
hearing, the trial court found that Williams both actually
killed and intended to kill Brookins. The court subsequently
held a resentencing hearing on the first-degree murder
conviction pursuant to section 921.1401, Florida Statutes
(2016), and again sentenced Williams to life imprisonment,
but with a sentence review in twenty-five years, as required
by section 921.1402(2)(a), Florida Statutes (2016).
appeal, Williams challenged the trial court's denial of
his Motion to Empanel Jury. Williams II, 211 So.3d
at 1071. The Fifth District held that the trial court
properly denied the motion, but noted that the
Alleyne challenge appeared to have merit on the
basis that the finding "increases both the
mandatory-minimum from zero years to forty years-if the
sentencing court determines that life is not an appropriate
sentence-and the time for a sentence review hearing from
fifteen years to twenty-five years." Id. at
1072-73. However, the Fifth District explained that in
Falcon v. State, 162 So.3d 954 (Fla. 2015), this
Court stated the trial court was to make the finding of
whether the defendant actually killed, intended to kill, or
attempted to kill the victim. Id. at
1073. As a result, the Fifth District certified
the question now before this Court as one of great public
v. United States
Alleyne, the defendant (Alleyne) was charged with
using or carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of
violence, as well as other federal offenses, arising from the
robbery of a store manager. 570 U.S. at 103. The applicable
statute provided that anyone who uses or carries a firearm in
relation to a crime of violence shall be sentenced to a
minimum of five years in prison. Id. However, if the
firearm is brandished, the statute mandated a minimum
sentence of seven years' incarceration. Id. at
104. The jury convicted Alleyne and indicated on the
verdict form that he used or carried a firearm; however, the
jury did not indicate a finding that the firearm was
brandished. Id. The trial court found that the
evidence supported a finding of brandishing and imposed a
seven-year sentence on this count. Id. The United
States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed.
certiorari review, the United States Supreme Court vacated
the Fourth Circuit's judgment with respect to the
sentence on the count of using or carrying a firearm in
relation to a crime of violence and remanded for
resentencing. Id. at 117-18. The Supreme Court held
that any fact that increases the mandatory minimum sentence
for an offense is an "element" which must be
submitted to a jury and found beyond a reasonable doubt.
Id. at 108. In reaching this holding, the Supreme
Court relied upon Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S.
466 (2000), in which it held that any fact that increases the
statutory maximum sentence is an "element" of the
offense to be found by a jury. Alleyne, 570 U.S. at
106; see also Apprendi, 530 U.S. at 490 ("Other
than the fact of a prior conviction, any fact that increases
the penalty for a crime beyond the prescribed statutory
maximum must be submitted to a jury, and proved beyond a
Supreme Court explained that "Apprendi's
definition of 'elements' necessarily includes not
only facts that increase the ceiling, but also those that
increase the floor. Both kinds of facts alter the prescribed
range of sentences to which a defendant is exposed and do so
in a manner that aggravates the punishment."
Alleyne, 570 U.S. at 108. The Court further stated:
[I]t is impossible to dispute that facts increasing the
legally prescribed floor aggravate the punishment.
Elevating the low end of a sentencing range heightens the
loss of liberty associated with the crime: the
defendant's “expected punishment has increased as a
result of the narrowed range” and “the
prosecution is empowered, by invoking the mandatory minimum,
to require the judge to impose a higher punishment than he
might wish.” Apprendi, supra, at 522, 120
S.Ct. 2348 (THOMAS, J., concurring). Why else would Congress
link an increased mandatory minimum to a particular
aggravating fact other than to heighten the consequences for
that behavior? This reality demonstrates that the core crime
and the fact triggering the mandatory minimum sentence
together constitute a new, aggravated crime, each element of
which must be submitted to the jury. [n.2]
[N.2.] Juries must find any facts that increase either the
statutory maximum or minimum because the Sixth Amendment
applies where a finding of fact both alters the legally
prescribed range and does so in a way that
aggravates the penalty. Importantly, this is distinct from
factfinding used to guide judicial discretion in selecting a
punishment "within limits fixed by law."
Williams v. New York, 337 U.S. 241, 246 (1949).
While such findings of fact may lead judges to select
sentences that are more severe than the ones they would have
selected without those facts, the Sixth Amendment does not
govern that element of sentencing.
Id. at 113 (citations omitted).
Supreme Court rejected the contention that, because the
seven-year sentence could have been imposed without the
finding of brandishing, the Sixth ...