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Martin v. State

Supreme Court of Florida

January 16, 2020

MARK S. INCH, etc., Respondent.


          An Appeal from the Circuit Court in and for Duval County, Linda McCallum, Judge - Case No. 162009CF014374AXXXMA And an Original Proceeding - Habeas Corpus

          Robert S. Friedman, Capital Collateral Regional Counsel, Dawn B. Macready and Elizabeth Spiaggi, Assistant Capital Collateral Regional Counsel, Northern Region, Tallahassee, Florida, for Appellant/Petitioner

          Ashley Moody, Attorney General, and Lisa A. Hopkins, Assistant Attorney General, Tallahassee, Florida, for Appellee/Respondent

          PER CURIAM.

         Arthur James Martin appeals an order of the circuit court denying in part his third amended motion to vacate his conviction of first-degree murder and sentence of death filed pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.851. He further 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 expressed below, we affirm the order of the postconviction court and deny the habeas petition.


         Martin was convicted of the 2009 first-degree murder of Javon Daniels. Martin v. State, 151 So.3d 1184, 1187 (Fla. 2014). The jury recommended the death penalty by a vote of nine to three. Id. at 1189. The trial court followed that recommendation and sentenced Martin to death. Id. at 1190. In the opinion on direct appeal, the Court detailed the facts surrounding the crime:

Two days before the murder, Martin's friend and codefendant Franklin Batie (Batie) was involved in a shooting where he was grazed on the back of the head and neck. On October 28, 2009, the day of the murder, Batie drove Martin to the Weber 5B Apartments in Jacksonville so that Martin could visit someone. Batie drove his car, a white Ford, to the apartment complex, and he remained in the car while Martin got out of the car and engaged in conversation. In the back seat of the Ford was Batie's loaded .45 caliber handgun. The gun was equipped with a thirty-round magazine.
While Batie remained in the car and waited for Martin, he noticed a white [Toyota] sport utility vehicle (SUV) and thought that he recognized the driver of the SUV as the person who shot him days earlier. Batie retrieved his gun from the backseat and mentioned to Martin that he possibly recognized the driver as having tried to shoot him. Martin then took Batie's gun and went to the driver's side of the SUV and began firing multiple shots at the driver, nineteen-year-old Daniels. When Daniels tried to escape through the passenger side of the SUV, Martin walked around the front of the SUV to the passenger side and continued firing. Eyewitness Sebastian Lucas testified that upon reaching the passenger side, Martin "shot him [Daniels] back down in the car." When Martin finished shooting, he walked back to the Ford, and Batie drove Martin home. Daniels died at the scene. Batie drove home to Starke, Florida, where he disposed of his Ford and began driving another vehicle. The murder weapon was never located.
Following the murder, detectives interviewed multiple eyewitnesses who viewed photospreads of possible suspects and identified Martin as the shooter. Some of the witnesses did not know Martin by his given name but by his nicknames, "Beer Belly" or "Shorty Fat." Martin was arrested several days after the murder, and a grand jury later indicted him for first-degree murder. Three days after Martin's arrest, Batie was arrested in Starke. Batie later entered a guilty plea to second-degree murder. After the conclusion of Martin's trial, Batie was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment for his role in the murder.
. . . Multiple eyewitnesses, including codefendant Batie, testified and identified Martin as the person who shot Daniels. One of the eyewitnesses, Tasheana Hart, testified that in the days following the murder, Martin asked her "not to tell" what she saw on the day of the murder and offered her money in exchange for her silence.
The medical examiner, Dr. Valerie Rao, testified that Daniels sustained a total of twelve gunshot wounds. Daniels was shot in his left hand, left arm, right arm, left side, right side, right thigh, and chest. Four of the gunshot wounds produced fatal injuries to Daniels' lungs, heart, liver, and stomach. . . . The gunshot wounds to each of Daniels' arms broke the humerus in each arm, and the gunshot wound to his left hand broke two of the bones in his hand. These broken bones incapacitated Daniels and left him incapable of completing his attempted escape from the SUV.

Id. at 1187-88.

         In imposing a sentence of death, the trial court found the existence of three aggravating factors: (1) the murder was committed in a cold, calculated, and premeditated manner without any pretense of moral or legal justification (CCP); (2) the murder was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel (HAC); and (3) prior violent felony (based upon a prior conviction for second-degree murder). Id. at 1188, 1190. Each aggravating factor was given great weight. Id. at 1190. The trial court found one statutory mitigating circumstance: Martin's age (forty years old at the time of the murder), which was given slight weight "based on minimal evidence of Martin's significant emotional immaturity." Id. With respect to the nonstatutory mitigating circumstances proposed by Martin, the trial court found as follows:

(1) Martin is functionally illiterate (slight weight); (2) Martin has a learning disability (slight weight); (3) Martin has low cognitive functioning (some weight); (4) Martin suffered a lifetime of poor health, including asthma, diabetes, and sleep apnea (slight weight); (5) Martin was a loving and caring son (slight weight); (6) Martin was a hard worker (slight weight); (7) Martin was generous (slight weight); (8) Martin was reverent (slight weight); (9) Martin was a loving and caring brother (slight weight); (10) Martin's love of work was often thwarted by his poor physical health (very slight weight); (11) Martin's childhood was plagued by the excessive alcohol consumption and fighting of his parents (some weight); (12) Martin was respectful to the judge and other officers of the court (very slight weight); (13) sentencing Martin to death is disproportionate and disparate given Batie's sentence to life imprisonment (rejected as not proven); and (14) the jury recommendation was not unanimous (proven, but no weight assigned).

Id. at 1190 n.4. The trial court also found and gave slight weight to two nonstatutory mitigating circumstances that were not proposed by Martin: (1) Martin had "temper issues"; and (2) when Martin was a child, he was attacked by other children. Id. at 1190 n.5.

         On direct appeal, Martin raised four issues: (1) whether the trial court made improper findings of fact and gave insufficient consideration in mitigation to Martin's intellectual functioning; (2) whether the trial court failed to consider, find, and weigh as a mitigating circumstance that Martin had a history of drug and alcohol abuse; (3) whether the trial court erred in finding the CCP and HAC aggravating factors; and (4) whether Florida's death penalty sentencing scheme was unconstitutional under Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584 (2002). 151 So.3d at 1190. We rejected each claim, concluded there was sufficient evidence to sustain the conviction, and determined the death sentence was proportionate. Id. at 1190-99. Accordingly, we affirmed Martin's conviction and sentence. Id. at 1199.[2]

         Martin filed his initial rule 3.851 motion for postconviction relief on February 18, 2016, but it was stricken. His first amended motion was also stricken. On March 31, 2016, Martin filed his second amended motion for postconviction relief, raising nine claims: (1) Martin is intellectually disabled and, therefore, his execution would violate the United States and Florida Constitutions; (2) trial counsel was ineffective during jury selection by (a) failing to conduct a meaningful death qualification of the jury, (b) failing to educate the jury on the penalty-phase process, (c) failing to inquire about racial bias, and (d) diminishing the jury's role in sentencing in violation of Caldwell v. Mississippi, 472 U.S. 320 (1985), and failing to object to comments that minimized the role of the jury; (3) trial counsel was ineffective during the guilt phase by failing to (a) conduct an adequate investigation, (b) adequately argue pretrial motions in limine, (c) effectively cross-examine guilt-phase witnesses, (d) present the testimony of two eyewitnesses, (e) litigate and challenge the photographic identifications, (f) hire a forensic consultant or ballistics expert, and (g) adequately challenge the evidence during closing statements and present a viable defense; (4) prosecutorial misconduct during the guilt phase; (5) trial counsel was ineffective during the penalty phase by failing to (a) conduct an adequate mitigation investigation, (b) adequately prepare the defense expert who evaluated Martin for intellectual disability, and (c) challenge aggravating factors and present mitigating circumstances; (6) Martin was denied his right to a qualified mental health expert pursuant to Ake v. Oklahoma, 470 U.S. 68 (1985); (7) cumulative error; (8) Florida's lethal injection protocol is cruel and unusual punishment; and (9)Martin's death sentence violates Hurst v. Florida, 136 S.Ct. 616 (2016), and Caldwell.

         The postconviction court scheduled an evidentiary hearing on claims (1), (2)(b), (3)(a), (3)(c)-(g), (5)(a), 5(b), and all but one subpart of (5)(c)-the failure to challenge the prior violent felony aggravating factor. Thereafter, the court allowed Martin to file a third amended motion for postconviction relief to add a tenth claim alleging Brady and Giglio violations.[3] During a status conference, the court noted that Martin is entitled to a new penalty phase pursuant to Hurst v. State (Hurst), 202 So.3d 40 (Fla. 2016). As a result, the evidentiary hearing addressed only guilt-phase claims.

         Martin presented as witnesses trial counsel Francis Shea (who primarily handled the guilt phase) and Christopher Anderson (who primarily handled the penalty phase); Anderson's office manager, Deirdre Berger Anderson; Liza Catron, Bruce Robinson, Kenneth Moncrief, and Fred Hillerich, who were appointed as investigators for the defense at different times prior to trial; trial witness Tasheana Hart;[4] Tasheana's mother, Pamela Hart;[5] Corey Davis, [6] who lived at the apartment complex where the murder occurred; and Christopher Robinson, who provided expert testimony with respect to forensics. The State presented Robert Nelson, who previously worked for the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office; current Jacksonville Sheriff's Office detectives Mitchell Chizik and Stephanie Strawn; and then-assistant state attorneys Richard Mantei and Richard Komando. On January 8, 2018, the postconviction court issued an order that granted the Hurst claim, denied the guilt-phase claims, and declined to consider the claims related to the penalty phase.

         This appeal follows. Martin has also filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus.


         The majority of the claims presented in Martin's appeal allege ineffective assistance of trial counsel. To demonstrate entitlement to relief on such a claim, a defendant must meet the following requirements:

First, counsel's performance must be shown to be deficient. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984). Deficient performance in this context means that counsel's performance fell below the standard guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment. Id. When examining counsel's performance, an objective standard of reasonableness applies, id. at 688, 104 S.Ct. 2052, and great deference is given to counsel's performance. Id. at 689, 104 S.Ct. 2052. The defendant bears the burden to "overcome the presumption that, under the circumstances, the challenged action 'might be considered sound trial strategy.'" Id. (quoting Michel v. Louisiana, 350 U.S. 91, 101, 76 S.Ct. 158, 100 L.Ed. 83 (1955)). This Court has made clear that "[s]trategic decisions do not constitute ineffective assistance of counsel." See Occhicone v. State, 768 So.2d 1037, 1048 (Fla. 2000). There is a strong presumption that trial counsel's performance was not ineffective. See Strickland, 466 U.S. at 669, 104 S.Ct. 2052.
Second, the deficient performance must have prejudiced the defendant, ultimately depriving the defendant of a fair trial with a reliable result. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689, 104 S.Ct. 2052. A defendant must do more than speculate that an error affected the outcome. Id. at 693, 104 S.Ct. 2052. Prejudice is met only if there is a reasonable probability that "but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different. A reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome." Id. at 694, 104 S.Ct. 2052. Both deficient performance and prejudice must be shown. Id. Because both prongs of the Strickland test present mixed questions of law and fact, this Court employs a mixed standard of review, deferring to the circuit court's factual findings that are supported by competent, substantial evidence, but reviewing the circuit court's legal conclusions de novo.

Bradley v. State, 33 So.3d 664, 671-72 (Fla. 2010). Because Strickland requires a defendant to establish both prongs, if one prong is not met, "the court is not required to analyze whether the defendant has established the other prong." Frances v. State, 143 So.3d 340, 347 (Fla. 2014).


         In his first claim, Martin contends that trial counsel Shea was ineffective because Shea maintained only sparse communication with him. Martin notes that on at least two occasions, he complained to the trial court that Shea was not meeting with him. Martin also presented Shea's billing records, submitted to the Justice Administrative Commission (JAC), which indicated he only visited Martin seven times for a total of less than nine hours from the date of appointment until trial.

         During the evidentiary hearing, Shea testified that the billing records he submitted to the JAC were not an accurate reflection of all the time he spent on Martin's case. He explained:

Although I keep an accurate time of the official documents we file with the Court there are many times that we meet or I meet with a client either at the courthouse or in a private session that was set aside up at the old courthouse. At the old courthouse the bailiffs would provide us with a jury room during the trial-pretrial proceedings where we could sit down and confidentially talk with our client and I would do that almost every occasion that I was there on a pretrial, and I just didn't bill for that because I would have my time in court and so I didn't bill for those meetings specifically.
There are other times when I would be at the Duval County Jail on other cases and instead of spending an hour with a client [as] I anticipated might only take 20 minutes and while I was there I would go over and see Mr. Martin or another client.

         Although Shea did not bill for every moment he worked on Martin's case, he verified that the billing he did submit was accurate with respect to the work he performed in reference to that billing. Shea testified that he and penalty-phase counsel Anderson met with Martin and thoroughly discussed the evidence and the content of the law enforcement reports to determine the strategy in the case. In Shea's words, "I wanted [Martin] to understand what we're faced with and then give me any feedback as to what his response would be."

         Martin has failed to demonstrate either prong of Strickland. The postconviction record reflects that Shea met with Martin and thoroughly discussed the case with him and the strength of the evidence against him. Further, Shea testified his JAC billing records are often not an accurate reflection of how frequently he meets with clients. Therefore, Martin has failed to meet his burden of demonstrating that Shea was deficient in his communication with Martin. Further, even if there had been any deficiency, we have explained that brevity of consultation alone is not grounds for postconviction relief. Kilgore v. State, 55 So.3d 487, 501 (Fla. 2010). To be entitled to relief, actual prejudice must be shown. Id. Although Martin may have expressed frustration with the frequency of visits by Shea, he has failed to demonstrate a reasonable probability that had Shea met with him more often, the result of the guilt phase would have been different and, thus, confidence in the outcome has not been undermined.

         Accordingly, Martin is not entitled to relief on this claim.

         Use of Court-Appointed Investigators

         Martin next alleges that Shea was ineffective for failing to use the investigators who were appointed to work on Martin's case. We disagree. During the evidentiary hearing, Shea testified that he did not use the investigators for the guilt phase because he concluded he could conduct the investigation himself:

I don't need an investigator if I'm doing the things myself unless there's something specifically that I want the investigator to do . . . . [T]he J.A.C. doesn't want me just to hire an investigator to go out and ride around the streets looking for stuff. He's got to have an issue and-in order to get paid and that's a requirement of the J.A.C. and a proper requirement.
. . . .
. . . I knew that the investigator was going to be used at this point to develop our mitigation based on all the facts that we had about the case.
. . . .
I had enough information to do the investigation and the one critical question which came really on that was from my conversation with [Martin].

(Emphasis added.) Over objection and on cross-examination, Shea described the following interaction with Martin:[7]

When I told [Martin] that-that Batie had put the gun down on the passenger seat and he reached in and grabbed it his response-his response was I didn't do that. [Martin] said [Batie] handed me the gun, and then we talked about running around the vehicle. He didn't make any admissions there but then I said, also, that witnesses are saying that you . . . shot through the-the window, the passenger window, and he indicated that he didn't shoot through the passenger window.[8]
So I was working with those facts in-in going forward with my defenses, and I was working against all these eyewitnesses identifying him from his weight, height and so forth and now the issue was was he the person out there, and after my discussions with him I had no other choice but to know that he was the person out there, so it changed my strategy in trying to put this claim off on some other person of a similar weight and height because there was no indication or evidence that anybody else other than him was out there.

         Based upon the information Shea had, we conclude it was a reasonable strategic decision to focus investigator efforts on collecting mitigation evidence for a potential penalty phase while Shea conducted the guilt-phase portion of the investigation. See Occhicone, 768 So.2d at 1048 ("Counsel cannot be deemed ineffective merely because current counsel disagrees with trial counsel's strategic decisions.").

         Based upon the foregoing, this claim is denied.

         Investigation of Eyewitnesses

         During the evidentiary hearing, Shea explained that one element of his defense was misidentification. Martin contends Shea was ineffective for failing to investigate two eyewitnesses who would have supported the misidentification defense by testifying that Martin was not the shooter. The first witness was Willie McGowan, who rode to the apartment complex with Daniels, but was outside of the vehicle when the shooting began. The other witness was Larry Jones, who was riding a bicycle in the area at the time of the shooting. Both men are now deceased. As we explain below, Martin has failed to demonstrate ineffectiveness with respect to either witness.

         Willie McGowan

         According to a police report, McGowan and Daniels traveled to the apartment complex to purchase marijuana. When they arrived, McGowan asked a "short fat dude"[9] if he had any marijuana. The individual told McGowan marijuana was available and pointed him toward a certain apartment. McGowan exited the vehicle to purchase the marijuana. According to the police report:

McGowan said as he approached the apartment, he heard several gunshots. He said [he] ran across the courtyard towards the Toyota where the victim was sitting. McGowan said he saw the short, fat black male shooting into the driver's side of the vehicle with a "machine" type pistol. He said he watched as the victim crawled over into the front passenger's seat and kick[ed] out the passenger window in an attempt to escape the gunfire. McGowan told us that as the victim was trying to get out of the Toyota through the passenger window, the suspect walked around the front of the vehicle and continued to fire rounds at the victim. He said he watched the suspect shoot into the passenger side until the victim did not move any more.
McGowan said as the shooting was happening, the driver of the Ford[] Crown Victoria pulled it in front of the Toyota and waited for the shooter. [McGowan] said as he ran towards the Toyota to help the victim, the driver yelled out to the shooter to "watch his back." McGowan said the shooter then fired a round at him and he ducked behind the rear of the Toyota. McGowan said he then watched as the shooter calmly walked up the sidewalk (east bound) on W. 22nd Street. He said the shooter walked passed [sic] the Ford[] Crown Victoria and the driver called him back to get in the car.
. . . .
McGowan described the shooter to us as a black male, who was "really short." He estimated that the shooter was approximately 5'0" to 5'3" tall. McGowan said the shooter was "fat" with a very "big stomach." He said he was wearing a white tank top with brown (khaki) shorts and he had dark skin. He further told us that he "looked right into his (shooter's) eyes" and that he would be able to identify him.

         During a meeting with law enforcement, McGowan was presented with two photospreads. McGowan said of Martin's photographs, "this looks like the guy, but it's not him." Despite McGowan's statement that Martin was not the shooter, Shea never spoke with him. Instead, Shea's investigation with respect to McGowan consisted of reviewing the statements to police and the outcome of the photographic identification.

         We conclude Shea was deficient for failing to investigate McGowan further. When a witness to a homicide states that he looked the suspect in the eye and could identify him again, and then fails to identify the defendant from photospreads, any reasonable trial counsel whose defense strategy is based upon misidentification would at least speak to that witness, even if counsel ultimately decides not to call him for strategic reasons. Shea's decision not to speak to McGowan may have been based in part upon the conversation Shea had with Martin in which Martin admitted he was the shooter, but because misidentification was part of the defense theme, Shea should have at least inquired into McGowan's failure to identify Martin as the shooter.

         Even though Shea was deficient in this respect, Martin nonetheless is not entitled to relief because he has not demonstrated prejudice. To demonstrate prejudice in this context, Martin would first have to show that Shea's personal contact with McGowan would have uncovered additional information that could have influenced Shea's strategic decision not to call McGowan as a witness. Martin did not present any evidence suggesting that McGowan's trial testimony would have differed from his statements to police, and the trial court correctly concluded that Shea's decision to avoid calling McGowan as a witness constituted reasonable trial strategy given the information known to Shea.

         First, McGowan's statements to the police were consistent with how other witnesses described the shooter and the execution style of the shooting. Second, according to McGowan's statement to police, the shooter told him where in the apartment complex he could buy marijuana. Shea testified during the evidentiary hearing that he believed it would be detrimental to Martin's defense if the jury were to hear that this case involved illegal drugs, or that Martin used illegal drugs heavily. Further, McGowan provided another highly unfavorable detail to the police-the shooter fired at him as he was running towards the vehicle to help Daniels. Given these facts, Shea concluded that having McGowan testify "would never have benefitted [Martin]." For these reasons, we hold there is no reasonable probability that, but for Shea's failure to further investigate McGowan, the outcome of the guilt phase would have been different, and confidence in the outcome has not been undermined.

         Larry Jones

         In a police report, Jones described the shooter as a "short, fat, black male." However, in a different police report, Jones described the shooter as 5'8" and 160 pounds. In both statements, Jones informed detectives he would not be able to identify the shooter if he saw him again. Prior to his death, Jones signed an affidavit stating he "had a very good look at the shooter[, ]" he was only interviewed once by the police, his description of the shooter as 5'8" and 160 pounds was the only description he gave, he had "no idea" where the other description came from, he was "100% certain [Martin] is not the man I saw doing the shooting that day," and defense counsel never contacted him.

         Shea testified during the evidentiary hearing that he did speak with Jones, and Jones' description of the shooter matched that of Martin. In denying this claim, the postconviction court credited Shea's testimony: "Shea clearly investigated Jones, and Shea's decision not to call Jones as a witness was reasonable. Jones' original description of the shooter, documented in the police reports and confirmed in his phone call with Shea, matched Defendant's appearance and corroborated testimony of other witnesses." (Emphasis added.) This Court will defer to a postconviction court's findings where they are supported by competent, substantial evidence because that court has a "superior vantage point in assessing the credibility of witnesses and in making findings of fact." Moore v. State, 132 So.3d 718, 727 (Fla. 2013) (quoting Porter v. State, 788 So.2d 917, 923 (Fla. 2001)). Because Shea contacted Jones and learned that what Jones saw was consistent with what was described by the other witnesses, Shea's investigation as to Jones was not deficient.

         Based upon the foregoing, Martin is not entitled to relief on this claim.

         Forensic Experts

         Martin next asserts that Shea was ineffective for failing to hire forensic experts to challenge the State's evidence. According to Martin, the State's depiction of Martin tracking Daniels around the vehicle while firing the weapon was used to support the assertion that the murder was premeditated, and also in support of the CCP and HAC aggravators.

         During trial, Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) laboratory analyst Maria Pagan testified that she received thirteen fired shell casings and four fired bullets. Although she was able to determine that the thirteen casings were fired from the same weapon, the results on the four bullets were inconclusive. However, she testified that the barrels of firearms have grooves cut out "that also twist so that when the bullet travels down the barrel it imparts spin to the bullet which helps it travel." According to Pagan, the four bullets had six ...

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