ROBERT DWAYNE MORRIS vs. JAMES R. MCDONOUGH
Supreme Court of Florida
ROBERT DWAYNE MORRIS,
STATE OF FLORIDA,
ROBERT DWAYNE MORRIS,
JAMES R. MCDONOUGH, etc.,
[April 20, 2006]
In 2002, this Court affirmed the first-degree murder conviction and death sentence of Robert Dwayne Morris. See Morris v. State, 811 So. 2d 661 (Fla. 2002). Morris now appeals the trial court's order denying his motion for postconviction relief after an evidentiary hearing and also petitions the Court for a writ of habeas corpus. We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 3(b)(1), (9), Fla. Const. For the reasons stated below, we affirm the trial court's order denying postconviction relief and deny the habeas petition.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Morris was convicted of first-degree murder, burglary of a dwelling with a battery or while armed, and robbery with a deadly weapon. On the morning of
September 2, 1994, the body of the 88-year-old victim, Violet Livingston, was found in her Lakeland apartment by her son. When the police responded to the murder scene, they found the victim lying on her bedroom floor between two beds. Her head was wrapped tightly in bed sheets, and there was blood on the walls, the furniture, and her walking cane.
The point of entry to the apartment appeared to be the kitchen window on the south side of the apartment. According to the associate medical examiner, the victim died as a result of multiple injuries, some of which were consistent with her having been beaten with her walking cane. There were also neck injuries consistent with strangulation, and wounds to her right forearm, hand, and knee, which could be classified as defensive wounds. The medical examiner determined that the victim was alive for a short period of time after the attack began.
At trial, the four main categories of evidence presented against Morris were: DNA test results linking Morris to the crime from two locations on the victim's body and from the kitchen curtain; Morris's fingerprints on the partially unscrewed lightbulb outside of the kitchen window of the victim's apartment; Morris's possession of various items taken from the victim's residence; and the testimony of Damion Sastre, a jailhouse informant who testified that Morris confessed to committing the murder. Morris testified in his own defense and stated that he did not kill the victim or break into her apartment. Morris denied confessing to Sastre. Morris also explained that his fingerprints were found on the lightbulb because he unscrewed it to prevent anyone from seeing him attempt to steal a bicycle from an upstairs apartment in the victim's apartment complex. Morris testified that on his way home from unsuccessfully trying to steal the bicycle, he found a brown paper sack containing several items belonging to the victim including a coin sorter, coin books, a chain necklace, and some little bags containing coins.
The jury found Morris guilty of the crimes charged. At the penalty phase, the State introduced Morris's prior felony convictions for robbery and established that Morris was on parole at the time the murder occurred. The State called a bloodstain pattern expert to testify, and also re-called the medical examiner to testify to the number and extent of the injuries sustained by the victim and that these injuries would have caused pain while the victim was conscious. In mitigation, the defense presented several of Morris's family members and friends to testify to the circumstances of Morris's childhood, including the physical and psychological abuse he suffered and witnessed. The defense also presented the testimony of Dr. Dee, a clinical psychologist and neuropsychologist. Morris did not testify at the penalty phase of his trial.
The jury recommended the death sentence by a vote of eight to four. The trial court found four aggravators, one statutory mitigator, eight nonstatutory mitigators that it considered collectively, and numerous other nonstatutory mitigators that it considered individually and cumulatively. Upon determining that the aggravating factors outweighed the mitigating factors, the trial court followed the jury's recommendation and sentenced Morris to death. Morris raised five issues on direct appeal. This Court concluded that there was competent, substantial evidence in this case to support Morris's convictions and affirmed Morris's convictions and death sentence. Morris thereafter filed an amended motion for postconviction relief under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.851, in which he raised eleven claims for relief. Following a Huff hearing, the trial court granted an evidentiary hearing on some of the claims raised in Morris's amended rule 3.851 postconviction motion and denied relief on those claims that were being raised solely to preserve the claims for federal review. After conducting an evidentiary hearing on eight of Morris's claims, the trial court issued an order denying relief. In the instant appeal, Morris challenges the trial court's denial and raises five issues related to his claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. Morris also petitions for a writ of habeas corpus, raising five claims for relief.
I. Standard of Review
In order to establish a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, a defendant must meet two requirements:
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 â€