[SUPREME COURT OF FLORIDA]

Oral Argument Press Summaries
January 4-8 & 15, 1999

The following summaries are drawn from briefs and lower court judgments. They are meant to provide a general idea of facts and issues presented in cases, and should not be considered official court documents. Facts and issues presented in these summaries should be checked for accuracy against records and briefs, available from the Court, which provide more specific information.

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Florida Supreme Court Oral Arguments
Monday, January 4, 1999

Arrive early. Times & order of appearance are tentative and subject to change with no notice. Cases may be postponed due to exigent circumstances.

Case Time Facts & Issues Place of Origin
Kathryn Hubbel v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co.

Nos. 92,532 & 92,848

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9:00 These consolidated cases involve consumers allegedly defrauded out of a few hundred dollars deposited toward the purchase of cars. The consumers sued against surety bonds the dealers had bought from insurers, who agreed to refund the actual loss. The insurers refused to pay attorneys fees and costs, totaling more than $10,000.00 in each case. The trial courts ordered insurers to pay these amounts, but the Fifth District Court reversed. Orange County
David Richard Conner v. State of Florida

No. 92,835

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Approx. 9:40 Conner was charged with attacking and robbing an 84-year-old man who lived alone and suffered poor eyesight, some hearing loss, and occasional lapses of memory. The victim gave two statements to police but died of unrelated causes before Conner's trial. The trial court denied Conner's motion to exclude the victim's statements as hearsay, citing a special hearsay exception involving the elderly. Conner then pled no contest but reserved the right to appeal the hearsay issue. On appeal the Second District Court affirmed. Polk County
Sandra H. Laskey v. Martin County Sheriff's Dept.

No. 92,931

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Approx. 10:30 Laskey's husband was killed in a head-on collision with a vehicle proceeding the wrong way on an Interstate. Shortly before the collision, an unidentified caller phoned the local 911 service, operated by the Martin County Sheriff's Department, to report the misdirected vehicle. Laskey argued that the Department had a duty to dispatch someone to stop the vehicle but failed to do so. The trial court dismissed the complaint, and the Fourth District Court affirmed on appeal. Martin County
David Paul Snipes v. State of Florida

No. 90,413

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Approx. 11:10 John Saladino offered David Snipes, then 17 years old, $1,000.00 to kill the victim Markus Mueller, who was found dead in February 1995 in his Bonita Springs home. Saladino later pled guilty to second-degree murder, and Snipes was tried and convicted of first-degree murder. The jury recommended the death penalty 11-to-1 and the judge agreed. This is Snipes' direct appeal.  Bonita Springs

Lee County


Florida Supreme Court Oral Arguments
Tuesday, January 5, 1999

Arrive early. Times & order of appearance are tentative and subject to change with no notice. Cases may be postponed due to exigent circumstances.

Case Time Facts & Issues Place of Origin
Inauguration of the Governor-No Cases Scheduled 


Florida Supreme Court Oral Arguments
Wednesday, January 6, 1999

Arrive early. Times & order of appearance are tentative and subject to change with no notice. Cases may be postponed due to exigent circumstances.

Case Time Facts & Issues Place of Origin
Amendments to Rules of Criminal Procedure

No. 93,845

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9:00 On Sept. 18, 1998, the Court adopted emergency Rules of Criminal Procedure dealing with the ongoing legal problems caused by death-row inmates attempting to obtain documents from state justice agencies under the Public Records Act. The Attorney General and Regional Capital Collateral attorneys have filed comments suggesting refinements of and changes to the emergency rules. Statewide impact
Richard Earl Shere, Jr. v. State of Florida

No. 91,614

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Approx. 9:40 Shere was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for the murder of Drew Snyder on Christmas Day 1987 after talking the victim into going rabbit hunting in a remote area, where he was killed. The motive for the shooting was Shere's belief that Snyder intended to tell police about crimes he and others may have been involved in. Shere's sentence was upheld on appeal in 1991, and he now challenges the validity of his death sentence. Hernando County
Robert Murphy v. International Robotics Systems, Inc.

No. 92,837

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Approx. 10:30 This case arose from a dispute among investors in a robotic surveillance boat called an OWL, which is somewhat like an unmanned jet ski designed to provide surveillance in aquatic environments too hostile for people. During closing arguments in the trial, one of the attorneys allegedly made improper and prejudicial comments to jurors, though opposing counsel failed to object. The jury awarded only nominal damages. On appeal, the Fourth District Court said that the failure to object barred any consideration of the issue but acknowledged contrary holdings by other District Courts. Palm Beach County
Roger Lee Cherry v. State of Florida

No. 90,511

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Approx. 11:10 Cherry was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for the June 1986 murders of Leonard and Esther Wayne in their small two-bedroom house in DeLand. He also was convicted of charges arising from burglary of their house. His death sentence for the murder was Mrs. Wayne was upheld on appeal, and he now challenges its validity. DeLand

Volusia County

Billy Leon Kearse v. State of Florida

No. 90,310

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Approx. 11:50 Kearse was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death in the slaying and robbery of Fort Pierce Police Officer Danny Parrish on Jan. 18, 1991, after being stopped for a traffic violation. In 1995 the Supreme Court returned the case to the trial court to correct errors in the sentencing proceedings. The sentencing phase jury recommended the death penalty 12-to-0 and the judge agreed. This is Kearse's direct appeal. Fort Pierce

St. Lucie County


Florida Supreme Court Oral Arguments
Thursday, January 7, 1999

Arrive early. Times & order of appearance are tentative and subject to change with no notice. Cases may be postponed due to exigent circumstances.

Case Time Facts & Issues Place of Origin
Paul Alfred Brown, Jr. v. State of Florida

No. 90,540

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9:00 Brown was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for the March 20, 1986, murder of Pauline Cowell in the home of her sister and brother-in-law. The jury recommended the death penalty 7-to-5 and the judge agreed. On appeal, his sentence was affirmed. He now challenges the validity of his death sentence. Hillsborough County
Joe Elton Nixon v. State of Florida

Nos. 92,006 & 93,192

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Approx. 9:40 Nixon was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for the murder of Jeanne Bickner, whose charred body was found tied to a tree in a wooded area of Leon County on Aug. 13, 1984. His sentence was upheld on appeal. He now challenges the validity of his sentence. Leon County
David Wyatt Jones v. State of Florida

No. 90,664

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Approx. 10:30 Postal worker Lori McRae was reported missing after she left her night-shift job early on the morning of Jan. 30, 1995. She had last been seen at a Walgreen's Drug Store in the Cedar Hills shopping center. Jones later was stopped and arrested while driving McRae's vehicle. He later confessed and told where he had left the body. Tried and convicted, Jones received a death sentence after the jury recommended it 9-to-3. This is his direct appeal. Duval County
Jerry Layne Rogers v. State of Florida

No. 91,044

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Approx. 11:30 Rogers was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for the January 1982 murder of David Eugene Smith during the robbery of an Orlando Winn-Dixie store. He had acted as his own counsel. His sentence was affirmed on appeal. He now challenges the validity of both his conviction and death sentence. St. Johns County


Florida Supreme Court Oral Arguments
Friday, January 8, 1999

Arrive early. Times & order of appearance are tentative and subject to change with no notice. Cases may be postponed due to exigent circumstances.

Case Time Facts & Issues Place of Origin
Amendments to Rules of Juvenile Procedure

No. 84,021

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8:30 The Supreme Court in 1996 gave trial judges in several parts of Florida permission on a trial basis to let juvenile offenders attend their detention hearings via audio-visual device. Reports are in from the experiment, and the trial judges have asked that the program be continued. Florida's public defenders oppose the request, and the Court scheduled argument to hear both sides. Statewide impact
Alachua County v. State of Florida

No. 93,344

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Approx. 9:10 Alachua County imposed a "privilege fee" on the transmission of electric power within its borders for all transmissions that cross the County's public rights of way. The County then filed suit to validate a $20 million bond issue secured with proceeds of the fee. Cities within Alachua County, the University of Florida, Santa Fe Community College, and others challenged the fee on grounds it was an unconstitutional tax. The trial court agreed with them, and the County appeals Alachua County

Statewide impact

Lawton Chiles v. State Employees Attorneys Guild

No. 93,665

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Approx. 10:10 Florida lawyers employed by the state sought permission to form their own labor union. After a round of earlier legal proceedings, the 1994 Florida Legislature enacted a law forbidding state lawyers from unionizing, which Gov. Chiles signed into law. The attorneys then filed suit arguing that the statute is unconstitutional under a provision of the Florida Constitution guaranteeing the right to collective bargaining through a union. The trial court agreed, as did the First District Court of Appeal. The state brings this appeal. Leon County

Statewide impact

Michael Scott Keen v. State of Florida

No. 88,802

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Approx. 11:00 Keen was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for the Nov. 15, 1981, murder of his pregnant wife Anita Lopez Keen, who drowned at sea off the coast of Fort Lauderdale after Keen pushed her in. He alleged married and killed her so he could collect insurance money from her death. Keen, a native of Jacksonville who grew up in Haines City in Polk County, was not apprehended for several years and was found in Seminole County living under an assumed name. His first murder conviction was reversed in 1987 because the prosecutor made improper remarks to the jury. He was tried again, but this conviction was reversed in 1994 because jurors in the jury room had read an inflammatory article about underhanded tactics used by defense lawyers and because Keen was wrongfully denied access to grand jury testimony. At his third trial, he was convicted and the jury recommended a life sentence 7-to-5. The judge overrode the recommendation and imposed the death penalty. This is Keen's direct appeal. Broward County

(Duval, Polk, & Seminole County connections)


Florida Supreme Court Oral Arguments
Friday, January 15, 1999

Arrive early. Times & order of appearance are tentative and subject to change with no notice. Cases may be postponed due to exigent circumstances.

Case Time Facts & Issues Place of Origin
Ceremonial Session: Retirement of Justice Ben F. Overton 3 p.m. Justice Ben F. Overton has served on the Supreme Court of Florida since his appointment by Gov. Reubin Askew, effective March 27, 1974. He is the appointee from the territorial limits of the Second District Court of Appeal, encompassing counties from Lakeland, the Tampa Bay area, and down to Lee County. His retirement takes effect at midnight Jan. 4, 1999.  Tallahassee

(Pinellas County connection)

Biography: Justice Ben F. Overton

Justice Ben F. Overton was the first Florida Supreme Court Justice to be selected under the merit selection process (effective January 1, 1973), which was designed to remove politics from Florida's judicial system and to improve the quality of the state's courts. He was appointed by Governor Reubin Askew on March 27, 1974, and was the senior member or "Dean" of the Supreme Court from Jan. 6, 1987, until his retirement Jan. 4, 1999. He has been a judicial officer of this State for over thirty years and served as Chief Justice from 1976 to 1978. While Chief Justice, he was a member of the Executive Council of the Conference of Chief Justices and was chair of the Conference's Special Committees on Cameras in the Courtroom and Judicial Education. The standards adopted by those two committees have now been implemented in most states.

Before his selection as a Justice, he served for nearly ten years as a circuit judge in both the civil and criminal divisions of the Sixth Judicial Circuit of the State of Florida, and was the chief judge of that circuit for three and one-half years. In 1973, he was chair of the Florida Conference of Circuit Judges. Justice Overton has also been involved in a number of governmental, legal educational, bar, historical, and professional activities. These include serving as: Chair of the Florida Appellate Structure Commission from 1978-79; a member of the 1978 Florida Constitution Revision Commission and Chair of its Judiciary Committee; Chair of the Florida Family Courts Commission from 1990-91; Chair of the Supreme Court Article V Review Commission in 1984; Chair of the Judicial Council of Florida from 1985-89; and a United States Delegate to Romania to assist the Romanian Parliament in drafting a proposed constitution in 1990. He has been actively involved in education, serving as: adjunct professor at Stetson University College of Law and Florida State University College of Law; Chair of the Florida Bar Continuing Legal Education Committee from 1971-74; Chair of the Florida Court Education Council; a faculty member of the National Judicial College from 1968-77; and Chair of the United States Constitution Bicentennial Commission of Florida from 1986-92.

His professional activities have included membership in the American Bar Association, where he served on many of its committees and task forces. These include: Chair of the Subcommittee on Judicial Discipline, drafting Standards for Judicial Discipline approved by the House of Delegates in 1979; Chair of the Task Force on Mental Health Standards for Competency to Stand Trial, approved by the House of Delegates in 1985; Chair of the Appellate Judges Conference Special Committee on Time Standards for Appellate Courts, approved by the House of Delegates in 1987; Chair of the Task Force to Review Criminal Justice Standards on Trial and Discovery, approved by the House of Delegates in August 1993 and August, 1994; member of the ABA Joint Committee on Professional Sanctions imposing discipline on lawyers, approved by the House of Delegates in 1986; member of the Executive Committee of the Appellate Judges Conference from 1976-84; member of the Standing Committee on Standards for Criminal Justice from 1977-85; member of the Council of Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar from 1986-89; member of the Council on Alternative Dispute Resolution Section 1993 to present; Fellow of the American Bar Foundation; and member of the American Judicature Society Board of Directors from 1980-86, its Executive Committee from 1980-83, and Society secretary from 1981-83.

Justice Overton has received many awards in his career. These include: the Tradition of Excellence Award by the General Practice Section of The Florida Bar in 1995; the Florida Bar Medal of Honor Award in 1984; and the Guardian of the Constitution Award in 1992 for programs developed while he was Chair of the United States Constitution Bicentennial Commission of Florida. He also has been honored by being placed in the National Hall of Fame of Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity in 1994; by having the University of Florida Law Review dedicate its September 1993 edition to him; and by receiving the St. Thomas More Award in 1978 from the Catholic Lawyers Guild, Archdiocese of Miami. He has received honorary doctor of law degrees from Stetson and Nova Universities.

Justice Overton was born on December 15, 1926, in Green Bay, Wisconsin. He received a bachelor's degree in Business Administration in 1951 and a Juris Doctor degree in 1952 from the University of Florida. He received an LL.M. in Jurisprudence from the University of Virginia in 1984. He is a member of the Episcopal Church, serving as lay reader, member of vestry, and senior warden; a member of the Rotary Club; and a retired Reserve Officer in the Judge Advocate General Corps. Justice Overton and his wife Marilyn have been married since June 9, 1951, and have three children, William H. Overton, Robert M. Overton, and Catherine Overton Mead.



 
 

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