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Patrick v. State

Supreme Court of Florida

June 14, 2018

JULIE L. JONES, etc., Respondent.


          An Appeal from the Circuit Court in and for Broward County, Ilona M. Holmes, Judge - Case No. 062005CF016477A88810 And An Original Proceeding - Habeas Corpus

          Neal A. Dupree, Capital Collateral Regional Counsel, and Suzanne Myers Keffer, Chief Assistant Capital Collateral Regional Counsel, Southern Region, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for Appellant/Petitioner

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, Florida, Lisa-Marie Lerner and Ilana Mitzner, Assistant Attorneys General, West Palm Beach, Florida, for Appellee/Respondent

          PER CURIAM.

         Eric Kurt Patrick, a prisoner under sentence of death, appeals an order denying his motion for postconviction relief filed under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.851. Patrick also petitions this Court for a writ of habeas corpus. We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 3(b)(1), (9), Fla. Const. For the reasons that follow, we affirm in part and reverse in part the postconviction court's denial of Patrick's postconviction motion and remand for an evidentiary hearing on one claim. We grant Patrick's petition for writ of habeas corpus, which raises a valid claim under Hurst v. Florida, 136 S.Ct. 616 (2016), and Hurst v. State (Hurst), 202 So.3d 40 (Fla. 2016), cert. denied, 137 S.Ct. 2161 (2017).

         I. BACKGROUND

         In 2009, Patrick was convicted of the kidnapping, robbery, and first-degree murder of Steven Schumacher. Patrick v. State, 104 So.3d 1046, 1054 (Fla. 2012). On direct appeal, we affirmed his convictions and sentences, including a sentence of death for the murder, and summarized the guilt-phase evidence as follows:

Eric Kurt Patrick was recently released from prison and homeless when he met Steven Schumacher at Holiday Park during a rain shower when both men took shelter under a pavilion. Schumacher invited Patrick to lunch, then to stay with him at his home until Patrick was back on his feet. On the night of Sunday, September 25, 2005, Patrick beat Schumacher to death. Patrick left Schumacher's apartment and took Schumacher's truck and parked it at the Tri-Rail station. Patrick withdrew approximately $900 from Schumacher's bank account using his ATM card in three separate transactions. Patrick was arrested after a separate, unrelated encounter with Deputy Kurt Bukata. Patrick [later] confessed to beating Schumacher, stated that he was afraid Schumacher was dead, and that he didn't mean to kill him.
. . . .
On the night of the murder, Patrick and Schumacher drank beers and went to bed. Patrick gave Schumacher a massage, then they both lay naked in bed. According to Patrick, Schumacher attempted anal sex, which Patrick refused. Patrick stated that Schumacher was "riding up on [him] squeezing [him]." After Patrick told him to stop, Schumacher stopped but tried again later. Patrick then explained that he "cut loose on [Schumacher]."
Patrick admitted and the evidence verified that Patrick beat Schumacher in the bedroom, beginning in the bed. He began hitting Schumacher with his fists but also beat him with a wooden box because his hands hurt so badly. Schumacher's nose was broken and his face was cut. He was hit so hard that his teeth were broken. Patrick then tied up Schumacher using a telephone cord at the base of the bed, then taped his mouth when Schumacher yelled for help. Patrick did not want Schumacher "to go to the law" on him. Patrick put Schumacher in the bathtub on his side where Schumacher was later found dead.
Jenny Scott and Robert Lyon, Schumacher's friends, usually saw him daily. They last saw Schumacher on [Sunday, ] September 25, 2005 . . . . Scott did not hear from Schumacher [after that time, ] and she also noticed his truck was missing. When Scott went to check on Schumacher on Tuesday, he did not answer so she called the Sheriff's Department.
Deputy James Snell responded to Scott's call. They both went into the apartment and saw that the bedroom was dark and disarrayed. Both Deputy Snell and Scott saw blood stains throughout the room. At that point, Scott ran out of the apartment. Deputy Snell found Schumacher's body in the bathtub. The body was very bloody and the hands and ankles were bound in the back; the head and face were taped, with the face resting on the drain. The pants were pulled down although still on the body. The body was cold and stiff and the blood had pooled. The ankles were bound with torn sheets and a knotted lamp cord. The wrists were bound by a telephone cord and tape. There was bruising on an elbow, the chin, and the top of the head. The tape on the head went both horizontally and vertically and there was a pillow case folded over the mouth under the tape. The tape seemed to be one continuous piece. Deputy Snell informed Scott that Schumacher was dead. Scott then provided the police with a description of Patrick.
The deputies found no evidence of forced entry into the apartment. Additionally, they discovered that the air conditioning was set at sixty degrees so all the windows had condensation on them. In the kitchen trash, the deputies found tape matching that used on Schumacher's face. Schumacher's wallet was in the living room. There were bloody footprints on the tile, a large blood stain on the bedroom carpet, and blood spatter on the dresser and wall. The bedroom lamp was cracked and missing its cord. A cord was in the bed under the sheets. There was blood spatter on the sheets and headboard. Teeth were found in the bedclothes. A broken box with blood on it was under the dresser.
Deputy Kurt Bukata ran into Patrick at a gas station and arrested him on an outstanding warrant. Patrick had injuries on his knuckles and was carrying a duffel bag. Patrick also had some abrasions on his upper body. Bukata inventoried the duffel bag and found blood-stained boots, jeans, briefs, and socks. . . . DNA tests identified Schumacher's blood on Patrick's jeans.

Id. at 1053-54.

         Patrick's jury recommended a death sentence by a vote of seven to five. The trial court followed the jury's recommendation, finding seven aggravators[1] and sixteen nonstatutory mitigating circumstances.[2] On appeal, this Court struck one aggravator (cold, calculated, and premeditated) but affirmed the death sentence, finding the consideration of this aggravator harmless error. Id. at 1055, 1068. Patrick's death sentence became final in 2013. Patrick v. Florida, 571 U.S. 839 (2013).

         Thereafter, Patrick timely filed his initial motion for postconviction relief under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.851, followed by a corrected motion, raising seven claims with subparts.[3] Patrick later sought leave to amend his rule 3.851 motion to add a Hurst v. Florida claim. The postconviction court accepted the amendment and, after an evidentiary hearing on certain claims, denied the motion in its entirety. As to the Hurst v. Florida claim, the postconviction court noted that this Court had not yet determined whether the holding in that case would have retroactive effect and denied the claim without prejudice to Patrick's filing a future motion on the same grounds once this Court resolved the retroactivity issue in then-pending cases.

         Patrick appealed the denial of his rule 3.851 motion and filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus with this Court, requesting relief under Hurst v. Florida and Hurst. In his appeal, Patrick argues that the postconviction court erred with respect to the following claims: (1) that he is entitled to a new penalty phase under Hurst v. Florida; (2) that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to contest Patrick's Miranda waiver and the voluntariness of his confession; (3) that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to raise a Frye challenge to shoeprint evidence or otherwise contest its credibility; (4) that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate and present certain mitigation evidence at Patrick's penalty phase; and (5) that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to adequately question or challenge two jurors during voir dire. We find no reversible error in the postconviction court's procedural ruling that Patrick's Hurst v. Florida claim was premature, as it was presented to the postconviction court before this Court decided the retroactivity of that decision and Hurst in Mosley v. State, 209 So.3d 1248, 1276 (Fla. 2016). However, as explained below, we grant Patrick a new penalty phase under Hurst v. ...

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