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Jordan v. State

Supreme Court of Florida

December 5, 2019

MARK S. INCH, etc., Respondent.


          An Appeal from the Circuit Court in and for Volusia County, Terence Robert Perkins, Judge - Case No. 642009CF002872XXXAWS And an Original Proceeding - Habeas Corpus

          Eric Pinkard, Capital Collateral Regional Counsel, and Lisa Marie Bort, Adrienne Joy Shepherd, and Ali Shakoor, Assistant Capital Collateral Regional Counsel, Middle Region, Temple Terrace, Florida, for Appellant/Petitioner

          Ashley Moody, Attorney General, Tallahassee, Florida, and Patrick A. Bobek, Assistant Attorney General, Daytona Beach, Florida, for Appellee/Respondent

          PER CURIAM.

         Joseph Edward Jordan appeals the denial of his motion to vacate his conviction of first-degree murder filed under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.851, and he also petitions this Court for a writ of habeas corpus. We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 3(b)(1), (9), Fla. Const.[1] For the reasons below, we affirm the trial court's order denying Jordan relief from his conviction and deny his habeas petition.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The facts of this case, which include overwhelming evidence of Jordan's guilt, were set out in this Court's direct appeal opinion. See Jordan v. State, 176 So.3d 920 (Fla. 2015). On or about Thursday, June 25 or Friday, June 26, 2009, Jordan beat and robbed the victim, Keith Cope, at the victim's home in Edgewater, Florida, pistol-whipping and binding him around the neck and face with multiple layers of duct tape, binding his hands and ankles with rope and leaving him injured, in distress, bound tightly, and tied to the four corners of his bed. Id. at 924-25, 931. Jordan made a bank withdrawal using the victim's debit card on the evening of June 25 and then drove the victim's truck to the Hollywood, Florida area, where he subsequently made several more withdrawals. Id. at 924, 937. After arriving in Hollywood, Jordan met up with some of his friends, including former coworker Mathew Powell and Mathew's girlfriend, Sadia Haque. Id. at 925. Jordan eventually told Mathew that the victim was literally tied up at his home and that Mathew could go to the victim's house and steal guns from the victim's gun safe. Id. Mathew, Sadia, and two of their other friends then traveled to the victim's house, arriving early in the morning on Sunday, June 28, 2009. Id. They found the victim in an extremely distressed state, barely alive, restrained by multiple ropes and pieces of duct tape and suspended by rope at the foot of the bed. Id.

         Sadia called 911, and first responders arrived to transport the victim to the nearby hospital. Id. The victim then underwent emergency surgery to amputate his left shoulder and arm, which had lost circulation from the constriction of the tight rope. Id. The victim's treating physician concluded that the victim's body was dying, testifying at trial that the victim entered the hospital completely unresponsive and suffered from almost no blood pressure, several organ failures, cardiovascular collapse, and compartment syndrome, a life-threatening illness related to the condition of his left arm. Id. The victim remained unresponsive until he was removed from life support and died at the hospital on July 13, 2009. Id.

         Police began searching for Jordan as the main suspect in their investigation after interviewing the four witnesses who found the victim. Id. While hiding from the police in South Florida, Jordan admitted to two friends that he had robbed and restrained the victim. Police eventually arrested Jordan on July 18, 2009. Afterwards, Jordan wrote several letters to one of the detectives assigned to his case, Joanne Winston, and spoke with her both over the telephone and in person, admitting to her several times that he had robbed and tied up the victim.

         After hearing the evidence presented at trial, Jordan's jury found him guilty of first-degree felony murder and robbery with a firearm or other deadly weapon. Id. at 925. Following the penalty phase presentation, the jury recommended death by a vote of ten to two for the murder. Id. at 926. The trial court followed the jury's recommendation and sentenced Jordan to death for the murder and life in prison for the robbery. Id. On direct appeal, this Court affirmed Jordan's convictions and sentences. Id. at 924.[2]

         In 2016, Jordan filed an initial motion for postconviction relief. Following an evidentiary hearing on one claim, the trial court denied relief on all of Jordan's guilt phase claims but vacated Jordan's death sentence and ordered a new penalty phase pursuant to Hurst v. State, 202 So.3d 40 (Fla. 2016). Jordan appeals the trial court's denial of his guilt phase claims and also petitions this Court for a writ of habeas corpus.


         Ineffective Assistance During the Guilt Phase

         Jordan first argues that trial counsel was ineffective during the guilt phase (1) for failing to object to the prosecutor's multiple improper statements during the guilt phase closing argument; (2) in presenting a deficient motion for judgment of acquittal; (3) for failing to object or move to exclude the admission of certain duct tape evidence; and (4) for failing to challenge the State's timeline regarding how long the victim was bound.

         Following the United States Supreme Court's decision in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), we have explained that, to prevail on an ineffective assistance of counsel claim, a defendant must establish two prongs, deficient performance and prejudice, both of which are mixed questions of law and fact:

First, the claimant must identify particular acts or omissions of the lawyer that are shown to be outside the broad range of reasonably competent performance under prevailing professional standards. Second, the clear, substantial deficiency shown must further be demonstrated to have so affected the fairness and reliability of the proceeding that confidence in the outcome is undermined.

Peterson v. State, 221 So.3d 571, 583 (Fla. 2017) (quoting Schoenwetter v. State, 46 So.3d 535, 546 (Fla. 2010)).

         To establish the Strickland deficiency prong, "the defendant must demonstrate that counsel's performance was unreasonable under 'prevailing professional norms.'" Id. at 583-84 (quoting Morris v. State, 931 So.2d 821, 828 (Fla. 2006)). There is a strong presumption that trial counsel's performance was not deficient but rather was sound trial strategy, and the defendant bears the burden to overcome it. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689-90. Further, "[a] fair assessment of attorney performance requires that every effort be made to eliminate the distorting effects of hindsight, to reconstruct the circumstances of counsel's challenged conduct, and to evaluate the conduct from counsel's perspective at the time." Id. at 689.

         The Strickland prejudice prong requires the defendant to "show that but for his counsel's deficiency, there is a reasonable probability that he would have received a different [outcome]," Porter v. McCollum, 558 U.S. 30, 41 (2009), where a reasonable probability is one that is "sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome," Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694.

         Because Strickland "requires establishment of both prongs, when a defendant fails to make a showing as to one prong, it is not necessary to delve into whether he has made a showing as to the other prong." Waterhouse v. State, 792 So.2d 1176, 1182 (Fla. 2001). Moreover, we employ a mixed standard of review, reviewing a trial court's factual findings for competent, substantial evidence, while reviewing its legal conclusions de novo. Bolin v. State, 41 So.3d 151, 155 (Fla. 2010).

         As explained below, we affirm the trial court's denial of relief as to each of Jordan's ineffective assistance of counsel claims.[3]

         (1) Guilt Phase Closing Argument

         Jordan argues that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the prosecutor's improper comments during the guilt phase closing argument, contending that counsel was ineffective for failing to object to (1) the prosecutor's two golden rule arguments; (2) the prosecutor's statement, "Don't let him get away with this"; (3) the prosecutor's improper reference to Jordan's alleged lack of remorse; and (4) the prosecutor's comment denigrating Jordan's theory of defense.

         Golden ...

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