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Michael Bernard BELL





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Arguments - Revenge
Number of victims: 5
Date of murders: 1989 / 1993
Date of arrest: September 15, 1994
Date of birth: November 24, 1970
Victims profile: Lashawn Cowart and her two-year-old son Travis / Michael Johnson, his mother's boyfriend / Jimmy West and Tamecka Smith
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Duval County, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on June 2, 1995

Supreme Court of Florida

opinion 86094 opinion SC02-1765

DC# 108426
DOB: 11/24/70

Fourth Judicial Circuit, Duval County, Case #94-9776
Sentencing Judge: The Honorable R. Hudson Olliff
Trial Attorney: Ward L. Metzger – Assistant Public Defender
Attorney, Direct Appeal: W.C. McClain – Assistant Public Defender 
Attorney, Collateral Appeals: Christopher Anderson – Registry

Dates of Offense: 12/09/93

Date of Sentence: 06/02/95

Circumstances of Offense:

Michael Bell was sentenced to two death sentences for the murders of Jimmy West and Tamecka Smith on 12/09/93.

Earlier in 1993, Michael Bell’s brother was killed by Theodore Wright.  The shooting was deemed as justifiable homicide because Wright claimed he fired in self-defense.  Bell vowed revenge for his brother’s death and swore to friends and family that he would kill Wright.

On the night of 12/09/93, Bell noticed Wright’s car in the area. He gathered two of his friends and an AK-47 assault rifle he had purchased the day before, and returned to the area where he had previously spotted Wright’s car. B

ell was unaware that Wright had sold the car to his half-brother Jimmy West.  Bell saw the car in the parking lot of a liquor lounge and waited for West to exit the club.  After a while, West, Smith, and another female left the lounge and started to enter the car.  Bell proceeded to the driver’s side of the car, opened the door, and fired at point-blank range. 

West died immediately from 12 bullet wounds, and Smith died from four bullet wounds while in route to the hospital.  The other female managed to duck away from the spray of the bullets. 

Bell fired at a crowd of onlookers waiting outside the club before he fled to his aunt’s house.

Circumstances of Additional Murder Convictions:

NOTE: Bell was convicted of the following murders subsequent to the 12/09/93 murders for which he was convicted and sentenced to death.

On 09/25/89, Bell shot and killed Lashawn Cowart and her two-year-old son Travis.  The three were driving together when Bell stopped, exited the vehicle and opened fire on the mother and son.  Afterwards, an accomplice vehicle came and picked up Bell.

On 08/18/93, Bell shot and killed Michael Johnson, the boyfriend of Bell’s mother.  After the couple had an argument, Bell went to Johnson’s house and shot him to death on the front porch.

Trial Summary:

09/15/94          Defendant was arrested.

09/29/94          Defendant indicted on:

Count I:           First-Degree Murder (Jimmy West)

Count II:          First-Degree Murder (Tamecka Smith)

03/09/95          The jury found the defendant guilty on Counts I & II.

03/17/95          Upon advisory sentencing, the jury, by a 12 to 0 majority, voted for the death penalty on Counts I & II.

06/02/95          The defendant was sentenced as followed:

Count I:           First-Degree Murder (Jimmy West) - Death

Count II:          First-Degree Murder (Tamecka Smith) – Death

Case Information:

On 07/19/95, Michael Bell filed a Direct Appeal in the Florida Supreme Court.  In his appeal, Bell argued that his court-appointed counsel was incompetent and that the court failed to allow him to represent himself under Faretta v. California.  Bell also contended that the court falsely applied the cold, calculated and premeditated (CCP) aggravating factor and failed to recognize certain mitigating factors. 

The Florida Supreme Court affirmed the convictions and sentences of death on 07/17/97.  The mandate was issued on 10/17/97.

On 12/08/97, Bell filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari in the United States Supreme Court, which was denied on 02/23/98.

On 06/01/99, Bell filed a 3.850 Motion in the State Circuit Court.  That motion was denied on 01/13/00.  He appealed the ruling on the 3.850 Motion in the Florida Supreme Court on 01/28/00. 

The Florida Supreme Court remanded the case to the State Circuit Court on 04/26/01, allowing an amended motion to be filed.  An amended 3.850 motion was filed on 10/03/01, which was denied on 05/31/02.  Bell filed an appeal of that decision in the Florida Supreme Court on 08/02/02.


Michael Bernard Bell



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