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Joe Elton Nixon - Florida Death Row
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Thread: Joe Elton Nixon - Florida Death Row

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2010

    Joe Elton Nixon - Florida Death Row

    Facts of the Crime:

    On August 12, 1984, Jeanne Bickner, the victim, went to a local mall to have lunch with friends. After lunch, she was seen in the parking lot giving jumper cables to a black man from the trunk of her car, an orange MG convertible. The events, according to the taped confession Joe Nixon gave police, occurred as follows: Nixon had asked Bickner to take him to his uncle’s house because he was having car trouble, which Bickner agreed. While Bickner was driving, Nixon hit her in the face causing her to stop the car. Nixon proceeded to force Bickner into the trunk of the car. He then drove to a secluded wooded area. He took Bickner from the car and tied her to a tree with jumper cables. The two then talked about their lives. During this period, Bickner offered to give Nixon money or sign over her car to him; she begged him not to kill her.

    Nixon began to burn some of Bickner’s personal belongings and proceeded to add the convertible top of the car to the burning pile. Nixon then placed a paper bag over Bickner’s head and, before he drove away, he threw the burning top of the car onto Bickner setting her on fire. The medical examiner testified that Bickner was alive at the time she was set on fire, and that the fire was the cause of her death. On Monday, August 13, 1984, a couple that was passing through the woods found Bickner’s remains. They reported the scene to the police. Bickner was found in a seated position by a pine tree. She had been secured to the tree by jumper cables that were tied around her waist. Her left arm was tied to another tree.

    On Tuesday, August 14, 1984, Bickner’s car was found in a drainage ditch. The interior and trunk were gutted by fire. On August 14, 1984, Nixon was arrested. Wanda Robinson, Nixon’s girlfriend, and his brother, John, had given information to the police that resulted in the arrest. John told the police that Nixon had admitted to killing a white woman by tying her to a tree with jumper cables and burning her. Both John and Robinson told the police that they had seen Nixon driving the victim’s car the previous day and on the morning of August 14, 1984. Nixon told both of them that he was going to burn the car. Both also stated that Nixon had shown them two of Bickner’s rings and that he later stated that he had pawned the rings. Testimony at the trial revealed that Nixon had attempted to sell the MG prior to burning it. In addition, a pawnshop receipt was found signed by Nixon for both rings and Nixon’s palm print was found on the lid of the trunk of the MG.

    Nixon was sentenced to death in Leon County on July 30, 1985.

  2. #2
    Senior Member CnCP Legend JLR's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Factors Contributing to the Delay in the Imposition of the Sentence:

    The primary factor that has delayed this case is the Florida Supreme Court remanding the case to the trial court on two separate occasions for an evidentiary hearing on the claim of ineffective counsel. In addition, the 3.850 Motion was pending in the Circuit Court for four years. Also, the Habeas was pending for five years.

    Case Information:

    Nixon filed his Direct Appeal on 09/03/85 to the Florida Supreme Court. The main claim was ineffective counsel based on comments made by the counsel during opening statements and closing arguments that conceded guilt without record approval of Nixon. Trial counsel utilized this defense in an attempt to seek leniency. Nixon states that the position taken by trial counsel is the equivalent of a guilty plea. The Florida Supreme Court remanded the case to the trial court on 10/27/87 for an evidentiary hearing to decide if Nixon was informed of and voluntarily consented to this strategy. The trial court relinquished jurisdiction of the case on 01/15/88 to seek clarification from the Florida Supreme Court on the above order. On 10/04/88, the Florida Supreme Court handed down an order clarifying the procedure for the evidentiary hearing: the evidentiary hearing should be conducted with the rights of examination and cross-examination by the defendant and the State and that the defendant was allowed to present witnesses but not the State. The trial court did not interpret the order in such a manner to require findings and conclusions; therefore, the Florida Supreme Court remanded the case to the trial court on 02/01/89. At this time, the State was allowed to present witnesses; however, the State’s examination of Corin, Nixon’s trial counsel, was limited only to the issues addressed during his testimony for the defense due to the fact that Nixon would not waive attorney-client privilege. On 10/04/89, the trial court found that Nixon had not sustained his burden of proof. On 11/29/89, the Court declined to dispose of this claim without prejudice in order to have it raised in a later 3.850 Motion.

    Nixon raised three other issues on his Direct Appeal: the prosecutor made an impermissible “Golden Rule” argument, Nixon’s absence during critical proceedings during the trial, and trial court allowing seven photographs of the victim entered into evidence. The Florida Supreme Court ruled that the comments during the State’s closing argument did not amount to a Golden Rule argument, that it was not an error to proceed with the trial in Nixon’s absence, and that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by admitting the photographs. The remaining claims were rejected, found to have no merit, or properly ruled on by the trial court and the Florida Supreme Court subsequently affirmed Nixon’s conviction and sentence.

    A Petition for Writ for Certiorari was filed to the United States Supreme Court on 06/20/91, which was subsequently denied on 10/07/91.

    A 3.850 Motion was filed to the Circuit Court on 10/07/93, which was denied on 10/22/97 without an evidentiary hearing.

    On 12/15/97, Nixon filed a 3.850 Appeal to the Florida Supreme Court. On 06/09/98, the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus was also filed to the Florida Supreme Court. On 01/27/00, an opinion from the Court was issued consolidating the two cases and remanding both cases back to the trial court for an evidentiary hearing on Nixon’s ineffective counsel claim – specifically whether Nixon consented to defense strategy to concede. A rehearing on this opinion was denied on 06/09/00, and a mandate was issued on 07/31/00. The evidentiary hearing was held on 05/11/01. An order was issued 09/20/01; the trial court denied the 3.850 Motion by finding that Corin did provide Nixon with effective counsel.

    An appeal of the trial court’s denial of the 3.850 Motion was filed to the Florida Supreme Court on 11/08/01. The main issue in this appeal was whether Nixon agreed to his trial counsel’s, Corin, strategy to concede guilt although he pled not guilty. Corin testified that he did consult Nixon about the concession, but he did not verbally agree or disagree with the decision. The Florida Supreme Court found that silence is not enough to prove that Nixon agreed to Corin’s decision, resulting in the conclusion that Corin was ineffective counsel. They remanded the case for a new trial on 07/10/03.

    The Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus that was filed on 06/09/98 was dismissed as moot due to the order that remanded the case for a new trial on 07/10/03.

    On 12/22/03, Nixon filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the United States Supreme Court, which was granted on 03/01/04. The Court will hear issues on the effectiveness standards of counsel, and held that claims of ineffective assistance of counsel based on counsel’s concession of guilt to the crime charged, even without the defendant’s consent, are to be analyzed under the principles of Strickland v. Washington. On 12/13/04, the United States Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Florida Supreme Court and remanded the case for reconsideration.

    On 04/20/06, the Florida Supreme Court readdressed the ineffective assistance of counsel claim on the issue of concession of guilt without Nixon’s consent, and addressed other issues raised in Nixon’s 3.850 Appeal and affirmed the trial court’s denial of Nixon’s 3.850 Motion. The Court concluded that trial counsel, Corin, was not ineffective conceding guilt to first-degree murder. The Court also found no error in the trial court’s summary denial of six other claims raised in Nixon’s 3.850 Motion. On 06/16/06, the rehearing was denied. The mandate was issued on 07/05/06.

    On 04/20/06, the Florida Supreme Court addressed the issues raised in Nixon’s Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus and denied habeas relief. Nixon raised three of the following claims: (1) ineffective counsel, (2) death sentence is unconstitutional based on Ring and Apprendi issues, and (3) mental incompetence to stand trial. The Court concluded that (1) counsel ineffectiveness has not been demonstrated, (2) the Ring case is not applicable because Nixon’s case became final before Ring was decided, and (3) the record does not demonstrate that Nixon is mentally retarded. On 06/16/06, the rehearing was denied. The mandate was issued on 07/05/06.

    On 06/19/06, Nixon filed a Motion for Postconviction Relief pursuant to Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure 3.851 and 3.203 in the Circuit Court. On 07/19/06, the Circuit Court entered an order granting the State to appoint an expert to examine Nixon for mental retardation. On 04/26/07, the trial court denied this motion.

    On 05/29/07, Nixon filed an appeal of the trial court’s denial of his Motion for Postconviction Relief (3.851 and 3.203) in the Florida Supreme Court. On 01/22/09, the Florida Supreme Court affirmed both dispositions of the trial court. The Florida Supreme Court issued a mandate in this case on 02/12/09.

    Nixon filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in the United States District Court, Northern District on 01/17/10. This case is currently pending. http://dockets.justia.com/docket/flo...0cv00020/56789

  3. #3
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Somewhat related.

    Three Florida Supreme Court Justices Fire Back at Attempted Conservative Putsch

    Three justices of the Florida Supreme Court used a forum at Florida State University to hit back at their critics, while campaign filings showed the trio had raised more than $1 million for their electoral defense.

    Speaking to an audience at the FSU College of Law comprised mostly of students, Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince pushed back against a campaign to push them off the bench that has spread from a conservative grass-roots uprising to a denouncing of the three by the Republican Party of Florida.

    The justices said that the effort to throw them off the court in this November’s merit retention elections, in which the justices don’t face opposition but have to get the approval of a majority of voters, was a challenge to the state’s judicial branch itself.

    “We do not want and we should not want to go back to a system where judges are beholden to anyone — no political party, no group, no individual,” Quince said.

    Pariente stressed the same theme: That the bid by the group Restore Justice 2012 and other opponents to push the justices off the court would help to dismantle some of the reforms passed after a series of scandals shook the high court in the 1970s.

    “What we see is that it is not about just the three of us, but it is about our system of a fair and impartial judiciary,” she said.

    Lewis, who at times choked back tears when talking about his respect for the court and his role as a judge, recalled working for then-Circuit Court Judge Shelby Highsmith’s unsuccessful campaign for the Supreme Court. Lewis said he and Highsmith were shocked at the corruption in the race.

    “Floridians deserve better,” Lewis said. “We ought not allow it to go back to those days.”

    Opponents have sought to cast the three, who often serve as the backbone of the court’s left-of-center majority, as activist judges who are out of touch with the state’s voters. Supporters have insisted that the justices have simply followed the law and that the new effort is an attempt to mold a court less likely to thwart Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-dominated Legislature.

    Recently, the Republican Party of Florida’s executive board got into the fight, upbraiding the justices for their votes in a 2003 appeal by Joe Nixon, who was convicted in the 1984 murder of Jeanne Bickner in Leon County. In that ruling, the court found that Nixon’s lawyer erred in essentially conceding his guilt during the trial without getting a statement of approval from Nixon. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned that decision.

    “These three justices voted to set aside the death penalty for a man convicted of tying a woman to a tree with jumper cables and setting her on fire,” party spokeswoman Kristen McDonald said when the state GOP announced it was backing the effort to remove the justices.

    But Lewis told reporters after the event that he ruled against one of Nixon’s earlier appeals in 2000.

    “So I guess I should take it that their attack is actually a compliment,” he said.

    Lewis did concur in the majority opinion in the 2003 appeal, but wrote in a separate concurring opinion that he felt bound by the court’s earlier ruling even though he thought the result was “legally and logically incorrect.”

    Lewis added to reporters that his colleagues shouldn’t be attacked for the decision. And he criticized the RPOF for jumping into the fray.

    “I’m disappointed,” he said. “And I would have been disappointed if the Democratic Party had come out one way or another. I would have been disappointed if the Green Party [had gotten involved]. I’m disappointed that we are in an era where partisan politics, there’s an attempt to inject that into nonpartisan matters.”

    Meanwhile, as the justices began fighting back harder by speaking out publicly, figures showed the committees working to retain the justices were also back on the fundraising path. After raising little money in July and August, the justices collected a combined total of $132,002 between Sept. 15 and Sept. 28, newly filed reports show.

    Pariente’s committee raised $51,796, Quince’s raised $40,531, and Lewis’ raised $39,675 during the period.

    The justices collected large amounts of money during the first half of the year before fund-raising dropped off in July. In all, the justices have collected about $1.15 million, with Pariente topping $404,000 and Quince and Lewis each at about $373,000.

    An uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    "Y'all be makin shit up" ~ Markeith Loyd

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