The Commission on Capital Cases updates this information regularly. This information, however, is subject to change and may not reflect the latest status of an inmate’s case and should not be relied upon for statistical or legal purposes.


NELSON, Joshua David (W/M)

DC#    989102

DOB:  01/16/77


Twentieth Judicial Circuit, Lee County Case# 95-911 CFA

Sentencing Judge:  The Honorable William J. Nelson

Trial Attorney:  Harold M. Stevens – Private

Attorney, Direct Appeal:  Paul C. Helm – Assistant Public Defender

Attorney, Collateral Appeals:  Baya Harrison, III – Registry


Date of Offense:  03/10/95

Date of Sentence:  11/27/96


Circumstances of the Offense:


Joshua Nelson and Keith Brennan constructed a plan to murder Tommy Owens, a peer, and steal his vehicle in order to leave the city of Cape Coral.  With the knowledge that Owens kept a baseball bat in his car, Nelson and Brennan lured Owens to a remote street under false pretenses on the evening of 03/10/95.  After convincing Owens to exit his car, Nelson struck Owens with the baseball bat.  Owens fell to the ground after a number of blows and then had his arms and legs tied by Nelson and Brennan.  Even though Owens pled for his life and offered to forfeit his car, Nelson and Brennan conferred and decided that, in order to avoid capture, they should kill Owens.  Brennan used a box cutter and tried to slice Owens’ throat.  Owens, however, was still conscious when the stabbing began, and he begged Nelson to hit him with the baseball bat so as to render him unconscious before Brennan continued the stabbing.  His request was granted, and Brennan continued the stabbing.  Nelson and Brennan continued to strike Owens with the bat a number of times before dragging his body to nearby bushes.  Owens later died.


Nelson and Brennan picked up Tina and Misty Porth in Owens’ car and the four left the city.  They left the state and drove to New Jersey after stopping in Daytona.  Nelson and Brennan informed Tina and Misty over the course of the trip that they had murdered Owens.  Tina and Misty both testified at the trial.


After law enforcement officers apprehended Nelson and Brennan in New Jersey, Nelson gave both a video- and audio-taped confession.  Nelson gave his detailed account of the murder both at the place of the bat’s discovery and at the crime scene, in his confession.  The taped video confession was played at the trial for the jury. A Florida Department of Law Enforcement analyst gave testimony that a match to Owens DNA was found on Nelson’s blood stained shoes, the box cutter, and the pair of underwear wrapped around the box cutter.    


Codefendant Information:


Keith Michael Brennan (DC# 989103)


Brennan and Nelson were tried together.  The date of the offense, 03/10/95, was eight days prior to Brennan’s eighteenth birthday. On 03/20/97, he was sentenced to life for first-degree premeditated murder and 13 years, 4 months for robbery with a deadly weapon (CC# 95-911).


Trial Summary:


04/04/95          Indicted as follows:

Count I:           First-Degree Murder

Count II:         Robbery with a Deadly Weapon

11/07/96          Jury returned guilty verdicts on all counts of the indictment

11/07/96          Jury recommended death by a vote of 12-0

11/27/96          Sentenced as follows:

Count I:           First-Degree Murder – Death    

Count II:         Robbery with a Deadly Weapon – 15 years, 9 months


Appeal Summary:


Florida Supreme Court – Direct Appeal

FSC# 89,540

733 So. 2d 516


12/16/96          Appeal filed

05/27/99          FSC affirmed conviction and death sentence

09/30/99          Rehearing denied

11/01/99          Mandate issued


United States Supreme Court – Petition for Writ of Certiorari

USSC# 99-7076

528 U.S. 1123; 120 S. Ct. 950; 145 L. Ed. 2d 825


11/18/99          Petition filed

01/18/00          Petition denied

State Circuit Court – 3.850 Motion

CC# 95-911


01/05/01          Motion filed

01/26/09          Amended Motion filed

06/15/09          Second Amended Motion filed

10/29/09          Evidentiary Hearing held

03/05/10          Motion denied


Florida Supreme Court – 3.850 Appeal

FSC# 10-540



03/26/10          Appeal filed



Factors Contributing to the Delay in Execution of Sentence:


It took the Florida Supreme Court nearly three years to decide on Nelson’s Direct Appeal.  The 3.850 Motion has been pending in the Circuit Court for nine years due to outstanding public records requests, pending motions, and illegibility of archival records, and issues with court staffing. 


Case Information:


Nelson filed a direct appeal to the Florida Supreme Court on 12/16/96.  Some of the issues raised included: (1) the trial court erred by failing to properly determine the admissibility of testimony by the State’s DNA expert Darren Esposito; (2) the trial court violated Nelson’s right to confrontation by admitting evidence of his non-testifying codefendant’s out-of-court statement. The Court found all of these claims either without merit or harmless and affirmed the conviction and sentence of death on 05/27/99.


Nelson filed a petition for Writ of Certiorari to the United States Supreme Court on 11/18/99, which was denied on 01/18/00.


Nelson filed a 3.850 Motion to the Circuit Court on 01/05/01, as well as two amended motions on 01/26/09 and 06/15/09. An evidentiary hearing was held on 10/29/09. This motion was denied on 03/05/10. 


On 03/26/10, Nelson filed a 3.850 Appeal in the Florida Supreme Court. This appeal is currently pending.


Institutional Adjustment:


DATE              DAYS           VIOLATION                             LOCATION      

--------            ----               ----------------------------         -------------------

04/20/02          30                 FAILURE TO COMPLY           UNION C. I.

08/18/05          30                 DISOBEY REGULATIONS      UNION C.I.




Report Date:   10/05/01          CC

Approved:      10/25/01          WS

Updated:        04/12/10          EMJ