FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING MOTION AND, IF
Appeal from the Circuit Court in and for Duval County,
Elizabeth Anne Senterfitt, Judge - Case No.
162010CF008424AXXXMA And an Original Proceeding - Habeas
S. Friedman, Capital Collateral Regional Counsel, Stacy R.
Biggart, Assistant Capital Collateral Regional Counsel,
Northern Region, Tallahassee, Florida, for Appellant
Moody, Attorney General, and Janine D. Robinson, Assistant
Attorney General, Tallahassee, Florida, for Appellee
Kelsey Sparre appeals the denial of his motion to vacate his
conviction of first-degree murder and sentence of death filed
under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.851 and petitions
this Court for a writ of habeas corpus. We have jurisdiction.
See art. V, § 3(b)(1), (9), Fla. Const. For the
reasons below, we affirm the denial of Sparre's
postconviction motion and deny his habeas petition.
facts of Sparre's case were fully set out in this
Court's decision on direct appeal. See Sparre v.
State, 164 So.3d 1183, 1186-88 (Fla. 2015). In summary,
after meeting Tiara Pool on Craigslist, Sparre stabbed her to
death in her Jacksonville apartment and stole several items
of her property, including her car. Id. at 1186-87.
At trial, the State argued that Sparre committed first-degree
murder under both premeditated and felony murder theories,
with burglary as the underlying felony. Sparre conceded that
he killed the victim but argued that he had "no prior
plan to murder" her and thus had not committed
premeditated murder, id. at 1189, and he further
argued that he had not committed the underlying burglary.
addition to Sparre's concession to killing the victim,
both through his trial counsel and through the admission of
Sparre's video-recorded interview with law enforcement
during which Sparre admitted to killing the victim with her
kitchen knife, id. at 1188, the evidence presented
to Sparre's guilt-phase jury included testimony from
Sparre's former girlfriend that "prior to his arrest
Sparre had confessed to her that he had killed a black woman
in the victim's Jacksonville apartment,"
id. at 1189; testimony from the medical examiner
that the victim "was alive and conscious through at
least 88 sharp-force injuries, which included thirty- nine
defensive wounds," id. at 1187; testimony from
law enforcement "that the crime scene was
'cleaned' to such an extent that virtually no
evidence of [the victim's] assailant was
recoverable," id.; testimony from a DNA expert
that although "he was able to rule out ninety-nine
percent of the world's population . . . Sparre and [the
victim] were possible contributors to the mixture of DNA
material found on the murder weapon," id.; and
testimony that several items of the victim's property
were missing, id. After hearing the evidence
presented at trial, Sparre's jury found him guilty of
first-degree murder, finding both that the killing was
premeditated and that it was done during the commission of a
felony, namely burglary. Id. at 1189.
the penalty phase, Sparre waived the presentation of
substantial mitigation evidence proffered by his defense
counsel, and Sparre's jury unanimously recommended a
death sentence. Id. at 1189-91. After holding a
Spencer v. State, 615 So.2d 688 (Fla. 1993),
hearing, at which Sparre again waived the presentation of
substantial mitigation proffered by defense counsel, the
trial court followed the jury's recommendation and
sentenced Sparre to death. 164 So.3d at
1191-93. We affirmed Sparre's conviction and
sentence on direct appeal. Id. at
Sparre filed the motion for postconviction relief at issue in
this appeal. Following an evidentiary hearing on some of the
claims, the circuit court entered an order denying relief as
to all claims. Sparre appeals the circuit court's denial
of his postconviction motion and also petitions this Court
for a writ of habeas corpus.
Ineffective Assistance of Trial Counsel
first argues that trial counsel was ineffective (1) for
failing to request a continuance to investigate Sparre's
competency to waive the presentation of mitigation to his
penalty-phase jury; (2) for failing to file the defense
sentencing memorandum with the clerk of court; (3) for
failing to impeach the trial testimony of the medical
examiner with his deposition testimony; (4) for failing to
consult with and retain a forensic pathologist; (5) for
extensively attacking the victim during closing argument and
for failing to explain how the evidence supported
Sparre's defense that he "snapped" and
committed the killing in a frenzy, rather than with
premeditation; and (6) for failing to object to improper
statements by the prosecutor during the guilt- and
penalty-phase closing arguments. Sparre further argues that
the cumulative effect of trial counsel's errors entitles
him to relief.
prove a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, a
defendant must establish two prongs, deficient performance
and prejudice, both of which are mixed questions of law and
First, the defendant must show that counsel's performance
was deficient. This requires showing that counsel made errors
so serious that counsel was not functioning as the
"counsel" guaranteed the defendant by the Sixth
Amendment. Second, the defendant must show that the deficient
performance prejudiced the defense. This requires showing
that counsel's errors were so serious as to deprive the
defendant of a fair trial, a trial whose result is reliable.
Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984);
see also Bolin v. State, 41 So.3d 151, 155 (Fla.
deficiency, there is a strong presumption that trial
counsel's performance was not ineffective but rather was
sound trial strategy, and the defendant bears the burden to
overcome it. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 690. A court
must consider "whether counsel's assistance was
reasonable considering all the circumstances."
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 688. "[S]trategic
decisions do not constitute ineffective assistance of counsel
if alternative courses have been considered and rejected and
counsel's decision was reasonable under the norms of
professional conduct." Darling v. State, 966
So.2d 366, 382 (Fla. 2007) (quoting Howell v. State,
877 So.2d 697, 703 (Fla. 2004)).
the prejudice prong, "[t]he defendant must show that
there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's
unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would
have been different," where "[a] reasonable
probability is a probability sufficient to undermine
confidence in the outcome." Id.
postconviction court's factual findings are reviewed for
competent, substantial evidence, while its legal conclusions
are reviewed de novo. Bolin, 41 So.3d at 155.
Further, "because the Strickland standard
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). Where trial counsel is deficient in more
than one area, however, we must "consider the impact of
these errors cumulatively to determine whether [the
defendant] has established prejudice." Parker v.
State, 89 So.3d 844, 867 (Fla. 2011).
first argues that trial counsel was ineffective for failing
to request a continuance to investigate Sparre's
competency to waive the presentation of mitigation to his
penalty-phase jury after Sparre disclosed that he had stopped
taking his prescribed antipsychotic medication. We affirm the
denial of this claim.
due process requires that a criminal defendant be competent
to proceed at every material stage of a criminal proceeding,
see generally Caraballo v. State, 39 So.3d 1234,
1252 (Fla. 2010), "not every manifestation of mental
illness demonstrates incompetence to stand trial; rather, the
evidence must indicate a present inability to assist counsel
or understand the charges," Card v. Singletary,
981 F.2d 481, 487 (11th Cir. 1992) (quoting United States
ex rel. Foster v. De Robertis, 741 F.2d 1007, 1012 (7th
Cir. 1984)). In Sparre's case, competent, substantial
evidence supports the circuit court's finding that trial
counsel was not deficient.
evidence includes the trial court's finding, during the
penalty-phase waiver colloquy at which Sparre disclosed his
medication stoppage, that Sparre was "lucid" and
"answered appropriately" when questioned about his
desire to waive mitigation. It also includes statements by
trial counsel immediately prior to the colloquy that counsel
had "no reason to believe that there's any
incompetency issue" and that Sparre had "responded
properly to questions" posed by his defense team and
"articulated certain ideas for argument," but had
elected to waive mitigation against the advice of
counsel's testimony from the postconviction evidentiary
hearing also supports the circuit court's finding that
trial counsel was not deficient. This includes testimony that
the defense team had no concerns about Sparre's
competency or any questions as to whether Sparre was validly
waiving the presentation of mitigation. To the contrary,
trial counsel testified that Sparre "was adamant"
about not wanting mitigation presented on his behalf from the
early stages of the case, when he was taking his medication,
meaning that Sparre's desire to waive "wasn't
last-minute," and that "it seemed as if [Sparre]
was making a conscious decision that he wanted . . . the jury
recommendation to come back death."
the "doubts" as to Sparre's competency raised
by Sparre's postconviction expert, Dr. Harry Krop, were
based on Sparre's diagnosed psychosis and Sparre's
self-reporting that he had stopped taking the medication
prescribed to treat it. However, Dr. Krop acknowledged that,
based on Sparre's jail records and spotty
medication-compliance history, it would be difficult to state
definitively whether Sparre was medicated on the day he
waived mitigation. Dr. Krop also testified that he was
concerned-based on Sparre's prior self-reporting of
hearing the voice of someone named "Tommy"-by
Sparre's statement during the waiver colloquy that Sparre
had discussed the waiver with himself in addition to
discussing it with his defense team. However, nothing in the
record indicates that Sparre equates himself with
"Tommy" (rather, Dr. Krop testified that Sparre
refers to "Tommy" as his "friend"), that
Sparre was hearing "Tommy's" voice at the time
of his waiver, ...