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 Union County. David P.
Thomas, Public Defender, and Nada M. Carey, Assistant Public
Defender, Tallahassee, for Appellant.
Jo Bondi, Attorney General, and Robert Quentin Humphrey,
Assistant Attorney General, Tallahassee, for Appellee.
jury indicted Lavar Thompson for first-degree murder,
home-invasion robbery, burglary with a firearm, kidnapping,
and arson. Thompson was convicted on all counts. Because the
State sought the death penalty, the case proceeded to a
penalty phase, after which the jury voted to spare
Thompson's life. The court sentenced Thompson to life in
prison, and Thompson now appeals.
and Connie Couch lived in Lake Butler. Their property
comprised a mobile home, several outbuildings, and a camper
trailer Mr. Couch called his "man cave." The
Couches' daughter, Chloe, and Mrs. Couch's son from a
previous relationship lived with them on the property.
January 2012, Ronald Griffis knocked on the Couches'
front door, offering to pave their driveway. After some
negotiating, Griffis and Mr. Couch agreed on a deal, and
Griffis said he would come back with a work crew to begin the
next day, Griffis arrived with his girlfriend and two other
workers: Amanda Jeffery (Griffis's sister) and Michael
Pierce, known to the work crew by his street name,
"Rat." The crew worked on the driveway for the next
two days. When they finished, the crew asked Mrs. Couch for
payment. Mrs. Couch, who was home alone with Chloe, told them
Mr. Couch would pay them after he returned and inspected the
job. Dissatisfied with this response, Rat became agitated and
started pacing back and forth on the Couches' porch
saying he'd get his money "one way or another."
Mrs. Couch eventually called law enforcement, and officers
told the work crew that if they wanted to wait for Mr. Couch,
they had to do so off the Couches' property. Meanwhile,
Jeffery decided to drive Rat back to his apartment in Starke
while the rest of the crew waited on the side of the road
near the Couches' home.
drive to Starke, Jeffery and Rat discussed burglarizing the
Couches' property to get the money they felt they were
owed. Rat said he knew someone who could help them do it.
Arriving at his apartment complex, Rat saw Appellant Lavar
Thompson walking nearby and told him to expect a call later
that night. Around 2:30 in the morning, Rat called Jeffery,
telling her to come pick him and Thompson up in Starke.
Jeffery did as she was told.
hours later, Mrs. Couch woke up to find a masked man holding
a gun in her face. The man told her "this is a
robbery" and said he was going to rape her. With her
daughter sleeping nearby, Mrs. Couch begged the man not to.
The man then said he would not rape her, but he forced her
out of the mobile home, across the yard, and into the
Couch entered the camper, she saw Mr. Couch covered in blood.
His teeth were on the floor. Another masked man-significantly
taller than the first and wearing a tan jacket- was standing
next to Mr. Couch. The taller man took Mrs. Couch into the
camper's bedroom and demanded combinations to nearby
safes. When Mrs. Couch explained she didn't know the
combinations, both men started beating Mr. Couch with a
wrench and stabbing him with an ice pick.
taller man sat Mrs. Couch down on the couch next to her
husband and started binding her with duct tape. When Mrs.
Couch resisted, the man struck her on the forehead with a
gun. The men then asked Mrs. Couch where they kept their
gasoline. She said she didn't know. Eventually, one of
the men left the camper and returned with lighter fluid,
spraying it throughout the camper and on Mr. Couch. Mrs.
Couch asked if they were going to burn her and Mr. Couch