Sixth Judicial Circuit, Pinellas
County, Case #97-4690
Sentencing Judge: The Honorable Frank Quesada
Attorney, Criminal Trial:
Richard Watts – Private
Attorney, Direct Appeal: Kevin Briggs – Assistant Public Defender
Attorney, Collateral Appeals:
Mark Gruber – CCRC-M
Date of Offense:
Date of Sentence:
Circumstances of Offense:
Harry Butler was convicted and
sentenced to death for the 03/13/97 murder of his former girlfriend,
Leslie “Bay” Fleming.
The body of Leslie “Bay” Fleming
was discovered on the morning of 03/14/97 by her sister, Shawna
Fleming. Shawna Fleming went over to her sister’s apartment at
approximately 7:15 a.m. and was let in by LaShara Butler, the
six-year-old daughter of Leslie Fleming and Harry Butler. Shawna found
her sister, Leslie, asphyxiated and stabbed multiple times.
At trial, LaShara Butler
testified that, on the night of the murder, she had been sleeping in the
bedroom with her mother, when her father, Harry Butler, picked her up
and took her to her own room. LaShara further stated that she saw her
father pin her mother down and heard her mother scream as though she was
Lola Young, a neighbor of Leslie
Fleming, testified that she saw Harry Butler hiding in the bushes near
Leslie’s apartment in the early morning hours of 03/14/97. She also
stated that she saw a blue car speed through the complex, stop and pick
Several of Butler’s
acquaintances testified that he said he killed or was going to kill
04/02/97 The defendant
was indicted on the following charges:
Count I: First-Degree
04/03/97 The defendant
entered a plea of “not guilty.”
06/26/98 The jury found the defendant guilty
of First-Degree Murder as charged in the indictment.
06/27/98 Upon advisory sentencing, the jury,
by an 11 to 1 majority, voted for the imposition of the death penalty.
01/11/99 The defendant was sentenced as
First-Degree Murder - Death
On 03/24/99, Butler filed a
Direct Appeal in the Florida Supreme Court. In that appeal, Butler
argued that the trial court erred in allowing the prosecution to
question three witnesses regarding prior domestic violence allegations
against him. The Florida Supreme court noted that there was no error in
that the evidence was admissible to explain direct testimony and that
its probative value outweighed any potential prejudicial effect.
addition, Butler claimed that the trial court erred in allowing the
testimony of an “unqualified” DNA expert and in denying his motion for a
new trial based on an alleged Brady violation
by the State. Butler also alleged error in the consideration and
application of aggravating and mitigating circumstances. The Florida
Supreme Court affirmed the conviction and sentence of death on
05/09/02. On 04/03/03, the court issued a revised opinion that again
affirmed the conviction and sentence of death.
On 07/13/04, Butler filed a
3.851 Motion in the Circuit Court and amended the Motion on 02/20/05.
The motion is pending.