[SUPREME COURT OF FLORIDA]

Oral Argument Press Summaries
March 1-5, 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, March 1, 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
Comptech International Inc. v. Milam Commerce Park, Ltd.

Nos. 93,336 & 93,126

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9:00 In Dade County, Comptech sued for economic losses when its landlord constructed an addition to the building it had leased and the contractor allegedly damaged Comptech's computers. The Third District court said the claim was barred because Comptech failed to negotiate a remedy for such a claim in its lease. In Putnam County, Mr. & Mrs. Carl Stallings sued an electrician hired by their contractor for economic losses caused by negligently installing wiring in their new home. The Fifth District Court said the claim was not barred. The Supreme Court accepted the cases to resolve any conflicts between them. Dade County

Putnam County

Fla. Dept. of Natural Resources v. Juan A. Garcia, Jr.

No. 93,065

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Approx. 9:40 On Feb. 1, 1989, Juan Garcia, Jr., was rendered quadriplegic when he dove into the water near First Street & Ocean Drive in South Beach. He said his injuries arose when he struck debris left from the City of Miami Beach's demolition of the South Beach Pier. He sued several entities including the State of Florida, which owns all underwater land within its territorial limits. The trial court dismissed the suit on grounds that the State was not the party that had designated the area as a swimming beach. The Third District reversed, finding the state as owner of submerged lands could be sued for negligently maintaining beaches commonly used for swimming. Dade County
George R. Caple v. Tuttle's Design-Build, Inc.

No. 93,549

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Approx. 10:30 Caple owned a large ornamental plant nursery in Homestead. In 1996, he sold it to Tuttle's for $17 million. Tuttle's later defaulted on its mortgage and notes in the amount of nearly $7 million, and Caple foreclosed. The trial court ordered Tuttle's to continue making interest payments on its debts pursuant to a Florida statute. Tuttle's took the case to the Third District Court, arguing that the statute was unconstitutional. The Third District agreed. Dade County
Fred Lorenzo Brooks v. State of Florida

No. 92,011

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Approx. 11:10 Brooks and his codefendant Foster Brown were charged with the August 28, 1996, murder of Darryl Jenkins in an alleged drug deal turned bad. At a joint trial, the jury convicted both men but recommended a life sentence for Brown and recommended the death penalty for Brooks by a vote of 7-to-5. The judge sentenced Brooks to death and he appeals. Duval County

Florida Supreme Court Oral Arguments
Tuesday, March 2, 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
Legislature Convenes--No Cases Scheduled

 
 
 

Florida Supreme Court Oral Arguments
Wednesday, March 3, 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
Fla. Dept. of Children & Families v. Roshonda Keys Gaines

No. 93,275

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9:00 Gaines' two older sons were placed in foster care after police found them running around in diapers on a busy street at 8:30 a.m. Police found Gaines inside a nearby apartment, apparently intoxicated. The mother initially complied with an agreement with DC&F and in 1996 was given the right to unsupervised home visits. After one weekend visit, however, monitors found the boys injured. The mother and her new husband were tried and convicted of aggravated child abuse based on this incident, and they were sent to jail. DC&F successfully terminated Gaines' parental rights over the two boys and a younger child. On appeal the Fifth District Court upheld this ruling as to the two older children, but reversed as to the younger. Orange County
Freddie Lee Hall v. State of Florida

No. 92,008

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Approx. 9:40 Hall was convicted and sentenced to death for the February 1978 murders of Karol Hurst in Leesburg and of Deputy Sheriff Lonnie Coburn in Hernando County. Hurst's body was found in Sumter County. His sentence was upheld on appeal, but he now challenges its validity in part on grounds he is mentally retarded. Hernando, Lake, and Sumter Counties
Berry Kessler v. State of Florida

No. 90,035

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Approx. 10:30 In February 1991 John Deroo was found murdered at his Hudson business, Custom Craft Cabinetry. Kessler, who was 69 when the murder occurred, was an investor in the business but was not arrested for Deroo's murder until 1993. This happened after federal informers taped Kessler allegedly conspiring to take out an insurance policy on another business associate, who then would be murdered for the proceeds. Investigators found that Kessler had taken out a policy on Deroo, though unbeknownst to Kessler the policy had lapsed for nonpayment shortly before Deroo died. Kessler was found guilty and the jury recommended death 9-to-3. At age 75, Kessler was sentenced to death. He appeals. Hudson

Pasco County

State of Florida v. George Sowell

No. 92,514

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Approx. 11:30 Sowell was diagnosed with glaucoma in 1977. In 1982, his kidneys failed, allegedly because of his glaucoma medication. He had a kidney transplant, but now must take antirejection drugs that make him nauseous. No prescription drug could control the nausea, but Sowell found that marijuana did, so he began growing his own. In 1995 he was charged with manufacture of a controlled substance after officers found 65 to 70 plants in his possession. He tried to present a "medical necessity" defense to the crime, but the trial judge would not let him. On appeal, the First District reversed but certified the case to the Supreme Court. Washington County

Florida Supreme Court Oral Arguments
Thursday, March 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
Ronnie Lee Jones v. State of Florida

Nos. 91,014 & 93,300

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9:00 Jones was convicted and sentenced to death for the July 1980 murders of John Uptgrow, Bernard Hill, and Byron Hamilton. Jones insisted on representing himself at trial, became unruly, and was shackled. He was found guilty and the jury recommended death 11-to-1. His sentence was upheld on appeal, and the U.S. Supreme Court denied review. Jones now challenges the validity of his sentence.  Dade County
Michael Duane Zack III v. State of Florida

No. 92,089

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Approx. 9:40 Zack was tried and convicted for the June 5, 1996, murder of Ravonne Smith in Pensacola. This happened following an alleged crime spree across the Florida Panhandle. Living in Tallahassee, Zack borrowed the car of a bartender and never returned it. He drove to Youngstown where he met a carpenter who eventually let Zack stay at his house. Zack vanished after stealing two guns and some cash. He drove to Niceville and pawned the guns. He went to a bar on Okaloosa Island, where he met Laurie Russillo, whom he allegedly strangled to death. From there he drove to Pensacola Beach and met the victim, Smith, at Dirty Joe's Bar. He killed her at her home. Stealing some electronic items, he returned to Panama City to pawn them. There, he broke into a house and was arrested two days later. The jury recommended death 11-to-1, and the judge agreed. Zack appeals. Escambia County

(Bay, Leon &, Okaloosa County connections)

John Hess v. State of Florida

No. 90,026

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Approx. 10:40 On May 10, 1993, Hess, a security guard, made comments to his boss about a murder of another security guard that apparently had not yet occurred. His description was close to the actual murder of security guard John Galloway who was killed at his station in Lake Fairways on May 11-12, 1993. Hess's boss notified authorities, who sent undercover agents to talk with Hess. He told them he had dreams of the murder. The agents took him to the murder scene, where Hess began reenacting his dreams as if he himself were the victim reliving his last moments. He told how his ghost left his body and chased the murderer, who was a man in uniform. Some of Hess's statements matched undisclosed facts about the murder, but police had no other evidence connecting him to the crime, and Hess's wife gave him an alibi. In March 1995 Hess was arrested in Michigan for extradition to Florida on unrelated child abuse charges. During questioning, Hess confessed to killing Galloway accidentally, and said he needed psychiatric help. He gave conflicting versions of the shooting. He was tried and convicted, and the jury recommended death 8-to-4. The judge agreed, and Hess appeals. Lee County

Florida Supreme Court Oral Arguments
Friday, March 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
James Donald Raulerson v. State of Florida

Nos. 91,611, 92,066, 92,143, 92,235, 92,114

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8:30 In these 5 consolidated cases, the defendants were charged for the third time with driving while their licenses were revoked. Florida law allows the third offense to be charged as a felony, but the defendant's argued that this gave trial courts too much discretion. The First, Fourth, and Fifth District Courts rejected these arguments, and the cases were consolidated for appeal. Broward, Escambia, & Marion Counties
Collier County v. State of Florida

No. 93,802

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Approx. 9:10 Under Florida tax law, real estate is valued for taxation as it exists each January 1. Taxes based on this valuation do not become due until the next November 1. County governments, meanwhile, must use a fiscal year that begins each October 1. Under this system, property owners can escape taxation on new construction for a period of time that may exceed a year. If improvements are built between October 1 and January 1, they escape taxation until the following October 1 because counties cannot consider them in their budgets. If improvements are built after January 1, they escape taxation until November 1 in the following year. Collier County enacted an ordinance to recoup these lost taxes through a complex formula. The trial court ruled this was an unauthorized tax, and the County appeals  Collier County

Statewide impact

State of Florida v. Osceola County

No. 94,135

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Approx. 9:50 Osceola County plans to issue $35 million in bonds to pay for a convention center to be located in a World Expo Center that will include developments by private hotel, entertainment, and retail companies. The state objected on grounds the bond issue had defects and may not be authorized by law. The trial court rejected this argument, and the state appeals. Osceola County

 

Florida Supreme Court Oral Arguments
Friday, March 5, 1999 (continued)

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
In re: Investiture of the Honorable Peggy A. Quince as the 79th Justice of the Florida Supreme Court 3:00 Justice Quince previously lived in the Tampa Bay area

BIOGRAPHY: JUSTICE PEGGY A. QUINCE

Justice Peggy A. Quince was born in Norfolk, Virginia, on January 3, 1948. She is married to Fred L. Buckine, Esquire, and they have two daughters, Peggy LaVerne, in her fourth year at Florida A & M University, and Laura LaVerne, a freshman at the University of Central Florida. Justice Quince graduated in 1970 from Howard University with a B.S. Degree in Zoology; she received her J.D. Degree from the Catholic University of America in 1975. While a law student she was active in Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity and the Black American Law Students Association; she received an award for her work with Catholic's Neighborhood Legal Services Clinic.

Justice Quince began her legal career in Washington, D.C. as a hearing officer with the Rental Accommodations Office administering that city's new rent control law. In 1977 she entered private practice in Norfolk, Virginia, with special emphasis in real estate and domestic relations.

She moved to Florida in 1978 and opened a law office in Bradenton, Florida, where she practiced general civil law until 1980. In February, 1980, Justice Quince began her tenure with the Attorney General's Office, Criminal Division. As an assistant attorney general she handled numerous appeals in the Second District Court of Appeal, the Florida Supreme Court, including death penalty cases, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court. Her thirteen and a half year tenure at that office included five years as the Tampa Bureau Chief. Additionally, three years was spent handling death penalty cases exclusively, on direct appeal and in postconviction proceedings.

Justice Quince is a member of the Florida Bar, Virginia State Bar, the National Bar Association, the George Edgecomb Bar Association, the Hillsborough County Bar Association, the Florida and Hillsborough Associations of Women Lawyers, and the Tampa Bay Inn of Court. Justice Quince's Florida Bar activities include membership on the Gender Equality Committee, the Criminal Law Certification Committee, and the Executive Councils of the Government Lawyers and Criminal Law Section. She has lectured at a number of Continuing Legal Education programs on issues involving search and seizure, probation and parole, use of peremptory challenges, post conviction relief and other appellate issues.

In 1993 Justice Quince became the first African-American female to be appointed to one of the district courts of appeal with her appointment by Governor Lawton Chiles to the Second District Court of Appeal to a term effective January 4, 1994. She was retained in office by the electorate in November, 1996. On December 8, 1998, Justice Quince was appointed by the late Governor Lawton Chiles and Governor-elect Jeb Bush to the Florida Supreme Court.

Justice Quince is a member of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, where her husband is an associate minister. She is an assistant Sunday School teacher and a member of the number three usher board.

Her civic and community activities include membership in Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Jack and Jill of America, Inc., the Urban League, the NAACP and TOBA, the Tampa Organization for Black Affairs.


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