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Matthews v. State

Supreme Court of Florida

December 12, 2019

Douglas Blaine MATTHEWS, Appellant,
STATE of Florida, Appellee.

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         An Appeal from the Circuit Court in and for Volusia County, R. Michael Hutcheson, Judge - Case No. 642008CF030969XXXAES.

          Eric Pinkard , Capital Collateral Regional Counsel, and Julissa R. Fontán , Chelsea R. Shirley , and Kara Ottervanger , Miami, Assistant Capital Collateral Regional Counsel, Middle Region, Temple Terrace, Florida, for Appellant.

          Ashley Moody , Attorney General, Tallahassee, Florida, and Donna M. Perry and Lisa-Marie Lerner , Assistant Attorneys General, West Palm Beach, Florida, for Appellee.

         PER CURIAM.

         Douglas Blaine Matthews appeals the denial of the guilt phase claims in his initial postconviction motion filed under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.851.[1] For the reasons explained below, we affirm the postconviction court's denial of Matthews' guilt phase claims.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Matthews was convicted of the first-degree premeditated and felony murder of Kirk Zoeller, manslaughter of Donna Trujillo, and burglary while armed. Matthews v. State, 124 So.3d 811, 814 (Fla. 2013). We set forth the following facts on direct appeal:

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          On the evening of February 20, 2008, Daytona Beach Police Department officers responded to a call that a man was outside an apartment building asking for help. When they arrived on the scene, officers discovered Kirk Zoeller sitting in front of an open apartment door, nonresponsive, covered in blood, and gasping for air with blood pulsing from his neck. The officers entered the apartment and found blood covering the floor and walls. While clearing the apartment, officers discovered Donna Trujillo's body on the bed in the bedroom. The officer who found Trujillo testified that she could not see her body from the main room of the apartment, which consisted of an open kitchen and living room, and that she stood in the bedroom doorway for 10 to 15 seconds before noticing the body because most of it was covered with a pillow. Zoeller and Trujillo were pronounced dead at the scene. According to the medical examiner, both victims had been stabbed to death.

Later that evening, acting on a tip, officers went to the home of Theresa Teague. Teague allowed the officers into her home and consented to a search. Inside, officers saw bloody sneakers and jeans in plain view on the floor and found Matthews, dressed only in boxers and socks, hiding under a pile of clothes in the bedroom. Officers obtained and executed a search warrant for Teague's home and found a bloody shirt in a clear plastic bag and Kirk Zoeller's wallet together inside a different bag.
Matthews made a statement to police detectives outside of Teague's house, which Matthews' trial counsel admitted into evidence at trial. Matthews told detectives that Kirk Zoeller killed Donna Trujillo and attacked him over drugs. Once detectives informed Matthews that Zoeller was dead, Matthews stated that he killed Zoeller in self-defense.
Matthews was indicted for the first-degree premeditated and felony murders of Kirk Zoeller and Donna Trujillo and for burglary while armed.
During the guilt phase, Justin Wagner, who sold drugs from and was present in Trujillo's apartment when she and Kirk Zoeller were killed, testified. Wagner explained that Matthews, Zoeller, and Trujillo went into the bedroom of Trujillo's apartment together. A few minutes later, Wagner said that he heard everyone "freaking out" and screaming and saw Matthews chase Zoeller out of the bedroom with a knife. Wagner testified that Matthews was clearly the aggressor. Before Wagner fled the apartment in fear for his life, he testified that he saw Matthews on top of Zoeller, repeatedly stabbing Zoeller and pulling him back as Zoeller, who was begging for help, tried to flee the apartment. Wagner also testified that he saw Matthews with a big buck knife on the day Zoeller and Trujillo were killed and that they had used Matthews' knife to cut crack cocaine together earlier that day. Wagner further testified that, after witnessing Matthews attack Zoeller, he fled to Theresa Teague's home but hid outside when he heard Matthews arrive. While hiding, Wagner said he saw Matthews remove his shirt and put it in a clear plastic bag outside of Teague's house.

Theresa Teague also testified to incriminating statements that Matthews made to her on the night Kirk Zoeller and Donna Trujillo were killed. Teague said that, before the police arrived at her home looking for Matthews, she and Matthews went outside after they saw police and helicopter search lights and Matthews said, "That's for me." When Teague pressed him for details, she said that Matthews told her that he "ran into a couple of people that probably wish

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they had not run into him that evening" and that he "just eliminated a couple of problems." In addition, Teague testified that she had given Matthews a knife about nine to twelve inches long days before Zoeller and Trujillo were killed.

The crime scene investigator testified that he collected the bloody sneakers, bloody jeans, bloody shirt, and Kirk Zoeller's wallet from Theresa Teague's home and that he found a traffic citation with Matthews' name on it inside the pocket of the jeans. He also testified that he took pictures of Matthews the day of his arrest and that Matthews did not have any knife cuts or fresh injuries on his body.

Testimony linked the bloody clothes and shoes to Matthews. The DNA analyst testified that "wearer" DNA on the bloody shirt and sneakers matched Matthews' DNA and that the blood on the shirt, jeans, and sneakers matched Kirk Zoeller's. She also testified that swabs from four of Matthews' fingers revealed blood that matched Zoeller's and that one of the swabs also contained blood that was a possible match to Donna Trujillo's. The police officer who issued the traffic citation found in the pocket of the bloody jeans identified Matthews as the person to whom he had issued the citation.

The medical examiner testified that Kirk Zoeller had been stabbed to death and that he had 24 stab wounds to the head, neck, chest, and back and two defensive wounds on his forearms. She testified that Zoeller's stab wounds were up to six inches deep and that one wound was inflicted with such force that the tip of the knife broke off in his skull. The medical examiner also testified that Donna Trujillo had been similarly stabbed to death and that she had 11 stab wounds to the head, neck, and chest. The medical examiner testified that, in her experience, it was unusual for stabbing victims to have stab wounds to their heads. She also testified that both victims would have felt pain as they were being stabbed and would have remained conscious for a period of minutes before passing out due to blood loss and then would have remained alive for an additional period of minutes before their deaths.

Matthews testified that he acted in self-defense. He admitted to doing drugs on the day Donna Trujillo and Kirk Zoeller were killed and stated that he went to Trujillo's apartment with Justin Wagner to trade cocaine for morphine pills. However, Matthews testified that Zoeller and Trujillo were arguing and went into the bedroom together while he stayed in the living area of the apartment's main room with Wagner. Matthews said it then got quiet and Zoeller came out of the bedroom into the main room of the apartment and started a fight with him over drugs. Matthews denied having a knife and denied that Theresa Teague ever gave him a knife. Matthews testified that Zoeller had the knife and that he took it away from Zoeller while they were fighting. At some point during their fight, Matthews said that he pinned Zoeller against the wall and saw Donna Trujillo's body on the bed. At that point, Matthews testified that he became afraid for his life because he saw what Kirk Zoeller did to Donna Trujillo. Then, Matthews testified that Zoeller kicked him and he "blacked out," "snapped," and started swinging at, but not stabbing, Zoeller. Matthews also claimed that several of the photographs in evidence taken by the crime scene investigator showed injuries he suffered during his fight with Zoeller, including a cut on his abdomen.

In addition, Matthews testified that he dropped the knife inside the front door of Donna Trujillo's apartment and fled

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to Theresa Teague's home, where he washed the blood off of his body in her bathroom. On cross-examination, Matthews acknowledged that he failed to include in his statement to detectives that he was injured during his fight with Kirk Zoeller and that he had "blacked out." But he denied taking Kirk Zoeller's wallet and testified that he did not know how his bloody shirt ended up in a bag with Zoeller's wallet inside Teague's home. Matthews also admitted to removing his clothes, hiding from police, and telling Teague that the police and helicopter lights were for him. However, he denied that he made the statements to Teague about "run[ning] into a couple of people" and "eliminat[ing] a couple of problems."

Id. at 812-14 (alterations in original) (emphasis added).

         "The jury recommended the death penalty by a vote of 10-2, and a Spencer[2] hearing was held." Id. at 815. The trial court followed the jury's recommendation. Id. On direct appeal, we affirmed Matthews' conviction for first-degree murder and death sentence. Id. at 812.[3] Matthews' death sentence became final in 2013. Matthews v. Florida, 571 U.S. 1074, 134 S.Ct. 683, 187 L.Ed.2d 555 (2013).

         Matthews filed an initial motion for postconviction relief pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.851. Matthews amended his postconviction motion several times, including once to add a claim pursuant to Hurst.[4] After holding two evidentiary hearings on certain claims and summarily denying other claims, the postconviction court granted Matthews a new penalty phase pursuant to Hurst, but denied relief as to his guilt phase claims.

         II. ...

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