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Dickerson v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, First District

November 22, 2019

James Lamont Dickerson, Appellant,
State of Florida, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of any timely and authorized motion under Fla. R. App. P. 9.330 or 9.331.

          On appeal from the Circuit Court for Duval County. Mark Borello, Judge.

          James Lamont Dickerson, pro se, Appellant.

          Ashley Moody, Attorney General, Tallahassee, for Appellee.

          B.L. Thomas, J.

         The Appellant, James Dickerson, appeals a trial court order summarily denying his postconviction motion brought pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.850. For the reasons outlined below, we affirm the trial court's ruling.

         In between the late night of July 18, 2013 and the early morning of July 19, 2013, the Appellant and his two co-defendants arrived at a Motel 6 where the three victims had been staying. According to one of the victims, the Appellant was responding to a "back page" advertisement that had been placed by one of the victims offering sexual services in exchange for money. The Appellant called ahead to advise the victims of his arrival and arrived at the motel sometime between 3:00 and 4:00 in the early morning, when the third victim had stepped out to go to the store. Upon entering the room, the Appellant and his co-defendants produced firearms, struck one of the victims in the head with his weapon, forced the victims to strip, and restrained the victims.

         Once the victims were restrained, the Appellant and one of his co-defendants proceeded to sexually assault the two victims multiple times while continuing to hold them at gunpoint. During the course of one of these assaults, the Appellant struck one of the victims in the head with the butt of his pistol, and later struck her in the face with his fist.

         During the course of these events, the third victim returned from his trip to the store. Upon his return, he was pulled into the room by the Appellant and his co-defendants, struck with a pistol, and restrained. They then robbed him and threatened to kill him. The Appellant attempted to smother one of the initial victims with a pillow, holding it over her face until she had passed out. One of the Appellant's co-defendants attempted to smother the other female victim with a pillow as well. The other victim struggled, and the co-defendant used a pistol to shoot her in the head. The bullet entered the right temple and exited out of the left side of her head. The Appellant and his co-defendants then lit the room on fire and fled.

         All three of the victims survived, and the Appellant and his co-defendants were apprehended. He was charged with two counts of attempted first-degree felony murder (counts I and II), one count of attempted voluntary manslaughter (count III), three counts of kidnapping with a weapon (counts IV, V, and VI), two counts of sexual battery with great force (counts VII and VIII), one count of armed robbery (count IX) and one count of arson (count X).

         At trial, one of the initial victims testified. She was able to give a detailed description of the Appellant and his co-defendants, and made an in-court identification of them, as well as affirming a previously made identification given to police. The third victim also testified as to his recollection of the events of that night. A redacted videotaped interview between the Appellant and investigators from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office was also shown to the jury. In this video, the Appellant admitted to being at the motel room and meeting with two of the victims.

         On August 21, 2015, a jury found the Appellant and his co-defendant guilty on all counts. The trial court sentenced the Appellant to life in prison for all counts save for count III; and as to count III, the Appellant was sentenced to ten years in prison. The trial court designated the Appellant as a sexual predator in accordance with section 775.21(4)(a), Florida Statutes, and as to counts III and X, the trial court classified the Appellant as a habitual felony offender pursuant to section 775.084(4)(a), Florida Statutes. Lastly, the Appellant was classified as a prison releasee reoffender in accordance with section 775.082(9), Florida Statutes. This Court affirmed the judgment and sentence. See Dickerson v. State, 225 So.3d 802 (Fla. 1st DCA 2017).

         The Appellant now raises five claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. To establish a prima facie claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, an appellant must show that trial counsel's performance was deficient and that the deficient performance prejudiced the appellant. See Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). Deficient performance is performance which is objectively unreasonable under prevailing professional norms. Id. at 688. Prejudice results when there is "a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different." Id. at 694. In sum, the Appellant must demonstrate his trial counsel's performance was so deficient as to effectively deny an appellant a fair trial; mere speculation is not sufficient to grant relief. See Maharaj v. State, 778 So.2d 944, 951 (Fla. 2000); Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687.

         The Appellant claims that his trial counsel was ineffective because his counsel did not file a motion for a mistrial based on the Appellant's prior criminal record being submitted into evidence. The basis of the claim begins with a series of statements from the prosecutor made during the trial. For example, the prosecutor asked, "[y]ou're the only drug dealer in Jacksonville that goes around and doesn't have a gun?" and "so you're doing all this, you got no gun on you?" The Appellant replied that "[t]here's a lot of people who serve don't have guns" and "I don't carry no gun." In the wake of these statements, the State introduced evidence of the Appellant's prior criminal acts where he had been convicted of being a ...

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