Timothy Chavers, pro se, Appellant. Ashley Moody, Attorney General, Tallahassee, for Appellee.
Not final until disposition of any timely and authorized motion under Fla. R. App. P. 9.330 or 9.331.
On appeal from the Circuit Court for Okaloosa County. John T. Brown, Judge.
Timothy Chavers, pro se, Appellant.
Ashley Moody, Attorney General, Tallahassee, for Appellee.
B.L. THOMAS, J.
Appellant challenges the circuit court's summary denial of his motion for postconviction relief filed pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.850. We affirm the order below.
A jury found Appellant guilty of first-degree murder. The facts of this case are found in the direct appeal record in Chavers v. State, 284 So.3d 984 (Fla. 1st DCA 2019). Evidence at trial showed Appellant-who was seventeen years old at the time of the offense-and several other individuals planned to rob Christopher Pitcock, a fellow student, to obtain marijuana. A witness testified that Appellant said prior to the incident that he was going to pull a gun on the victim. Two witnesses testified that Appellant said he wanted to use the gun. Of the individuals involved in the crime,
Appellant was the only one with a gun. During the attempted robbery, the gun discharged while Appellant was holding it, killing the victim. After the shooting, Appellant burned his sweatshirt and dropped the gun on the ground, saying that he did not want to hold the gun anymore. After that, he went out for pizza with the other individuals involved in the attempted robbery. One of Appellant's companions testified that he thought he overheard Appellant say at the restaurant, "I think I killed him."
Because Appellant committed the offense while a minor, pursuant to section 775.082(1)(b), Florida Statutes, the trial court held a hearing to determine whether life imprisonment was an appropriate sentence. The defense presented testimony from four mitigation witnesses and requested a prison term of less than forty years. The State recommended life in prison, with a review after twenty-five years. The trial court found Appellant was not a good candidate for rehabilitation and sentenced him to life in prison with review after twenty-five years. The court also issued written findings in support of its decision. This Court affirmed the judgment and sentence. Chavers v. State, 284 So.3d 984 (Fla. 1st DCA 2019).
The order now on appeal summarily denied Appellant's claim that his trial counsel was ineffective for not objecting to his being tried by a six-member jury instead of a twelve-member jury.
The lower court correctly denied relief. Section 913.10, Florida Statutes, provides that "[t]welve persons shall constitute a jury to try all capital cases, and six persons shall constitute a jury to try all other criminal cases." Because Appellant was seventeen years old when he committed the offense, the death penalty was never an option. See Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551, 578 (2005) ("The Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments forbid imposition of the death penalty on offenders who were under the age of 18 when their crimes were committed."). Under these circumstances, Appellant was not entitled to a twelve-member jury. See Walling v. State, 105 So.3d 660, 663 (Fla. 1st DCA 2013) (holding that a defendant was not entitled to a twelve-person jury for a trial on a first-degree felony murder committed when he was sixteen because the death penalty was not a legal possibility).
Moreover, five decades ago, the United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Florida's six-person jury system. See Williams v. Florida, 399 U.S. 78, 86 (1970). In Williams, the Supreme Court explained that the Framers considered including various features of the jury trial in the text of the Sixth and Seventh Amendments, and reached a compromise resulting in the current text:
Three significant features may be observed in this sketch of the background of the Constitution's jury trial provisions. First, even though the vicinage requirement was as much a feature of the common-law jury as was the 12-man requirement, the mere reference to 'trial by jury' in Article III was not interpreted to include that feature. Indeed, as the subsequent debates over the Amendments indicate, disagreement arose over whether the feature should be included at all in its common-law sense, resulting in the compromise described above. Second, provisions that would have explicitly tied the 'jury' concept to the 'accustomed requisites' of the time were eliminated. Such action is concededly open to the explanation that the 'accustomed requisites' were thought to be already included in the concept of a 'jury.' But that explanation is no more plausible than the contrary one: that the deletion had some substantive effect. Indeed, given the clear expectation that a substantive change would be effected by the inclusion or deletion of an explicit 'vicinage' requirement, the latter explanation is, if anything, the more plausible. Finally, contemporary legislative and constitutional provisions indicate that where Congress wanted to leave no doubt that it was incorporating existing common-law features of the jury system, it knew how to use express language to that effect. Thus, the Judiciary bill, signed by the President on the same day that the House and Senate finally agreed on the form of the Amendments to be submitted to the States, provided in certain cases for the narrower 'vicinage' requirements that the House had wanted to include in the Amendments. And the Seventh Amendment, providing for jury trial in civil cases, explicitly added that 'no fact tried by a jury, shall be
otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.'
We do not pretend to be able to divine precisely what the word 'jury' imported to the Framers, the First Congress, or the States in 1789. It may well be that the usual expectation was that the jury would consist of 12, and that hence, the most likely conclusion to be drawn is simply that little thought was actually given to the specific question we face today. But there is absolutely no indication in 'the intent of the Framers' of an explicit decision to equate the constitutional and common-law characteristics of the jury. Nothing in this history suggests, then, that we do violence to the letter of the Constitution by turning to other than purely historical considerations to determine which features of the jury system, as it existed at common law, were preserved in the Constitution. The relevant inquiry, as we see it, must be the function that the particular feature performs and its relation to the purposes of the jury trial. Measured by this standard, the 12-man requirement cannot be regarded as an indispensable component of the Sixth Amendment.399 U.S at 96-100 Williams was correctly decided and remains controlling precedent today See Lainhart v State, 351 So.3d 1282, 1284 (Fla 1st DCA 2022) (BL Thomas, J, concurring) (explaining that Williams was correctly decided because the drafters of the Sixth Amendment could have but did not include language that would have imposed a twelve-person jury system).
Accordingly, the record in this case conclusively shows that Appellant is entitled to no relief. Fla. R. App. P. 9.141(b)(2)(D).
KELSEY and NORDBY, JJ., concur.