final until disposition of any timely and authorized motion
under Fla. R. App. P. 9.330 or 9.331.
appeal from the Circuit Court for Duval County. Tatiana
Christopher E. Cosden, Fort Myers, for Appellant.
Jo Bondi, Attorney General, and Samuel B. Steinberg,
Assistant Attorney General, Tallahassee, for Appellee.
Robb had just turned two when he was beaten to death. The
police investigation immediately focused on the two adults
home at the time of beating: Brandi Robb (the child's
mother) and Nicholas Rivet (Brandi Robb's boyfriend). The
three-mother, child, and Rivet-had lived together near Naval
Station Mayport at the time of the beating.
of the mother, police asked Rivet to meet with her while
wearing a wire and later to call her on a recorded line.
Suspicious of Rivet, police also asked the mother to call
Rivet on a recorded line. For a while, the investigation
turned up no obvious answers. Indeed, more than three years
passed with no arrest.
State eventually charged Rivet with second-degree murder. At
his trial, the mother testified against Rivet, and
Rivet's defense pointed back to the mother. Lawyers for
both sides acknowledged that the death was a homicide and
that it had to be either Rivet or the mother. The jury
decided it was Rivet, convicting him as charged, and the
court imposed a life sentence. Rivet now appeals.
the pertinent facts were essentially undisputed. Brandi Robb
had two children, Eddie and Logan. After Robb separated from
her husband, she and the children struggled financially,
frequently staying with Robb's mother or others. For
several weeks before Eddie's death, Robb and her children
stayed with Rivet. Rivet, too, had recently separated from
his spouse, and he needed help looking after his two
children. Robb was not working, so she was able to watch all
the children while Rivet, on active duty with the United
States Navy, worked in port on the U.S.S. Simpson.
Robb's car had been repossessed, so she drove Rivet's
car to run errands and take Rivet to and from work.
and Robb became romantically involved, but they kept it a
secret. They were both going through divorces and dealing
with child custody issues, and knowledge of their
relationship could have complicated things. Plus, Rivet could
have faced discipline from the Navy, which forbade adultery.
So although they lived together as boyfriend and girlfriend,
they told others the relationship was more like a single dad
and a live-in babysitter.
January 25, 2010, Robb drove with the children to pick Rivet
up from work. They returned home around 8:00 p.m., and Robb
put Eddie to bed around 8:30. Robb and Rivet were together
downstairs until after 9:00, when Rivet went upstairs to make
sure the children were sleeping. When Rivet did not come down
right away, Robb went upstairs as well. From outside
Eddie's room, Robb heard Rivet telling Eddie to go to
sleep. When Rivet left the room, he and Robb went back
downstairs. After watching television for a while, the two
decided to go to bed. Robb went to their bedroom while Rivet
went to check on the children again.
Rivet reentered the children's room, it looked to him
like Eddie was having a seizure. He immediately called for
Robb, who called 911. Paramedics came, and Eddie was
life-flighted to a pediatric trauma center. He died there
to experts who testified at trial, Eddie suffered numerous
injuries to his head and eyes, including a serious, fatal
head injury. The overall injuries were so severe, the experts
agreed, that they were certainly not caused by an accidental
fall or anything similar. There was also expert testimony
that immediately after the fatal trauma, it would have been
obvious to anyone that Eddie was symptomatic, as he would
have had an immediate altered level of consciousness and been
unable to communicate normally. As one ...