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Jeffrey Lee ATWATER





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: August 11, 1989
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: December 24, 1963
Victim profile: Ken Smith, 64
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: St. Petersburg, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on June 25, 1990

Florida Supreme Court
Briefs and Opinions


Docket #SC94865 - Jeffrey Lee Atwater, Appellant, vs. State of Florida, Appellee.
788 So. 2d 223; June 7, 2001.

amended initial brief of appellant answer brief of appellee
reply brief of appellant

Docket #SC99-179 - Jeffrey Lee Atwater, Petitioner, vs. Michael W. Moore, etc., et al., Respondents. 788 So. 2d 223; June 7, 2001. (Consolidated Case)

petition for writ of habeas corpus
response to petition for writ habeas
reply to state's response to petition for writ of habeas corpus

DC #120467
DOB: 12/24/63 

Sixth Judicial Circuit, Pinellas County, Case #89-13299
Sentencing Judge: The Honorable R. Grable Stoutamire
Trial Attorneys: John White, Esq. & Michael Schwartzberg, Esq. – Private
Attorney, Direct Appeal: Steven Krosschell – Assistant Public Defender
Attorney, Collateral Appeal: Mark Gruber & David Hendry – CCRC-M

Date of Offense: 08/11/89

Date of Sentence: 06/25/90

Circumstances of Offense:

Jeffrey Atwater, the defendant, was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Ken Smith on 08/11/89.

On the day of the murder, Atwater attempted to enter the John Knox Apartment Complex in St. Petersburg, Florida.  Upon reaching the security gate, Atwater told the guard that he was Smith’s grandson and fabricated the purpose of his visit.  The defendant entered Smith’s apartment and proceeded to his room. 

After 20 minutes, Atwater left the apartment and Smith’s body was discovered later that day.  Apparently Smith had been robbed as well because his pockets were turned inside out and all of his money was missing.

After the murder, Atwater reportedly told several people that he killed Smith, and he was subsequently arrested later that day.

There was evidence that Atwater was looking for Smith for up to three days prior to his murder.  Apparently, Atwater had obtained money from Smith before, but Smith was fearful of him, and had vowed never to give him money again.

At trial, a medical examiner testified that 64-year-old Smith had been stabbed over 40 times, and there was evidence he was beaten prior to or during the killing.

Additional Information:

Jeffrey Atwater had no previous criminal history in Florida prior to the robbery and murder of Ken Smith.

Trial Summary:

08/11/89          Defendant arrested.

09/07/89          Defendant indicted on:

Count I:           First-Degree Murder

Count II:          Robbery with a Deadly Weapon

05/04/90          The jury found the defendant guilty on counts I & II.

05/17/90          Upon advisory sentencing, the jury, by an 11 to 1 majority, voted for the death penalty.

06/25/90          The defendant was sentenced as followed:

Count I:           First-Degree Murder – Death

Count II:          Robbery with a Deadly Weapon – 10 years

Case Information:

On 07/18/90, Jeffrey Atwater filed a Direct Appeal in the Florida Supreme Court.  The defendant contends that the trial court erred in permitting the State to excuse the only black person in the venire by using a peremptory challenge.  He also claimed that the court erred in its treatment of a juror’s question and that the State did not support its accusation of robbery with adequate evidence.  Atwater also challenged the application of two aggravating factors; however, the court summarily denied those claims as well. 

The Florida Supreme Court affirmed the convictions and sentence on 09/16/93.  The mandate was issued on 12/29/93.

The defendant filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari on 02/22/94, which was subsequently denied on 04/18/94.

Atwater filed a 3.850 Motion in Circuit Court on 10/16/95.  The motion was denied on 01/06/99.

Atwater next filed an appeal of his 3.850 Motion in the Florida Supreme Court on 11/22/99.  That appeal was denied on 06/07/01.

The defendant filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in the Florida Supreme Court on 12/22/99.  The petition was also denied on 06/07/01.

Atwater filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in the United States District Court on 06/21/02.  The petition was administratively closed pending the final decision in the Bottoson/King cases. 

On 01/13/03, the petition was reopened.  Atwater’s Habeas Petition was denied on 10/21/03.  He filed an appeal of that decision in the United States Court of Appeals on 12/04/03, which is currently pending. 

On 12/05/03, Atwater filed a Motion to Stay pending the resolution of his State proceedings.  On 06/12/06, the USCA affirmed the denial of the petition.

On 12/08/03, Atwater filed a Successive 3.850 Motion in the State Circuit Court, which was denied on 04/20/04.  He filed an appeal of that decision in the Florida Supreme Court, who affirmed the denial on 12/20/04.


Jeffrey Lee Atwater



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