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Daniel BURNS Jr.





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Drugs - To avoid arrest
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: August 18, 1987
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: January 29, 1945
Victim profile: Jeffery Dale Young (Florida Highway Patrol Trooper)
Method of murder: Shooting
LocationManatee County, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on June 2, 1988. Resentenced to death on July 6, 1994

Supreme Court of Florida

opinion 72638 opinion 84299 opinion SC01-166

DC# 111918
DOB: 01/29/45

Twelfth Judicial Circuit, Manatee County, Case #87-2014
Sentencing Judge: The Honorable Stephen L. Dakan
Resentencing Judge: The Honorable Paul Logan
Trial Attorneys: Diana Allen & Mary Ann Stiles – Private
Attorney, Direct Appeal: Paul Helm – Assistant Public Defender
Attorney, Direct Appeal Resentencing: Paul Helm – Assistant Public Defender
Attorney, Collateral Appeals: Eric Pinkard & James Driscoll – CCRC-M

Date of Offense: 08/18/87 

Date of Sentence: 06/02/88

Date of Resentencing:  07/06/94         

Circumstances of Offense:

Daniel Burns, Jr. was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Jeff Young during a traffic stop on 08/18/87.

Daniel Burns, Jr. and Samuel Williams were returning to Detroit from Ft. Myers when Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Jeff Young pulled them over on Interstate 75.  According to Williams’ testimony, Trooper Young came up to the vehicle and asked for identification. 

Trooper Young then returned to his patrol car where he radioed dispatch for a wanted persons search and a registration check on Burns’ Michigan tag.  Trooper Young next asked Burns if he could search the vehicle, and Burns consented. 

Upon searching the trunk and finding what appeared to be cocaine, Trooper Young and Burns began to struggle.  According to witness testimony, Burns and Trooper Young were fighting in a water-filled ditch when Burns grabbed Trooper Young’s gun and pointed it at him. 

Trooper Young threw his hands in front of his face as Burns fired one shot, which hit Trooper Young’s wedding ring and struck him in the head.  Trooper Young was dead by the time additional troopers arrived at the scene.  Medical examiners testified that the shot was fired at such a close range as to leave gunpowder on Trooper Young’s face.

Burns fled on foot and was apprehended later that night.  Williams testified that Burns was making several trips to Florida to in order to purchase $10,000 worth of cocaine.

Trial Summary:

08/18/87          Defendant arrested.

08/25/87          Defendant indicted on:

Count I:           First-Degree Murder

Count II:          Cocaine Trafficking

05/17/88          The jury found the defendant guilty on both counts.

05/17/88          Upon advisory sentencing, the jury, by a 10 to 2 majority, voted for the death penalty.

06/03/88          The defendant was sentenced as followed:

Count I:           First-Degree Murder – Death

Count II:          Cocaine Trafficking – 30 years

12/24/92          The Florida Supreme Court affirmed Burns’ convictions, but remanded for new sentencing before a jury.          

04/19/94          The new sentencing jury, by a 12 to 0 majority, voted for the death penalty.

07/06/94          The defendant was resentenced as followed:

Count I:           First-Degree Murder – Death

Count II:          Cocaine Trafficking – 30 years

Additional Information:

On 12/17/04, the Florida Supreme Court relinquished jurisdiction to the Circuit Court to determine if Burns is mentally retarded.  On 06/27/05, the Circuit Court determined that

Burns is not mentally retarded mental retardation claim.

Case Information:

Burns filed his Direct Appeal in the Florida Supreme Court on 06/27/89.  Burns raised many issues in this appeal to which the court gave little or no response.  Burns, however, urged that the trial court erred when it allowed character and background evidence of the victim to be presented to the jury, and erred in its application of the heinous, atrocious, and cruel (HAC) aggravating factor. 

While Burns argued that unfairly prejudiced both the guilt and penalty phases of the trial, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the introduction of such evidence only deprived Burns of a fair sentencing.  The Florida Supreme Court noted the preponderance of evidence of Burns’ guilt, and therefore ruled that, even without the prejudicial testimony, the jury would have enough evidence to convict Burns of murder.

The court also examined Burns’ HAC claim and found that the aggravator was inappropriately applied.  As such, the Florida Supreme Court affirmed the convictions but remanded the case for new sentencing proceedings on 05/16/91.  On 12/24/92, the Florida Supreme Court vacated its earlier decision and issued a clarified opinion on Burns’ Direct Appeal. 

The court explained in more depth their finding of error regarding the HAC factor.  In the absence of the HAC aggravator, the jury would have only one aggravating factor to weigh against one mitigating factor, and the court asserted that there was no way to hypothesize a jury’s recommendation in such a circumstance.  In addition, the court noted the prejudicial victim evidence entitled Burns to a new penalty phase before a jury.  On 12/24/92, the Florida Supreme Court again affirmed the convictions and remanded for resentencing.

After being resentenced to death on 07/06/94, Burns filed a Direct Appeal in the Florida Supreme Court on 09/02/94.  Burns contended that the court erred in denying his request to instruct the jury regarding his right to remain silent and again disputed the admission of victim character and background evidence.  Burns also argued that his case was one of the most mitigated and least aggravated.  The Florida Supreme Court affirmed the sentence of death on 07/10/97.

On 11/24/97, Burns filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari in the United States Supreme Court, which was denied on 02/23/98. 

On 06/08/98, Burns filed a 3.850 Motion to Vacate Judgment and Sentence in the State Circuit Court, which was denied on 12/18/00. 

Burns filed an appeal of that decision in the Florida Supreme Court on 01/22/01.  On 12/17/04, the FSC relinquished jurisdiction to the Circuit Court for a mental retardation claim.  On 06/27/05, the CC denied the mental retardation claim. 

Burns filed a 3.203 Appeal on 07/14/05 that was closed on 09/15/05.  The issued raised in the appeal have been included in the 3.850 Appeal.


The victim

FHP Trooper Jeffery Dale Young



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