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
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
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
Count I: First-Degree
Count II: Cocaine
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
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
First-Degree Murder – Death
Cocaine Trafficking – 30 years
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
Burns is not mentally retarded
mental retardation claim.
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)
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
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.
FHP Trooper Jeffery