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.
COLE, Tiffany (W/F)
Fourth Judicial Circuit, Duval County Case # 05-10263
Sentencing Judge: The Honorable Michael R. Weatherby
Attorney, Trial: Quentin Till – Assistant Public Defender
Attorney, Direct Appeal: W.C. McLain – Assistant Public Defender
Attorney, Collateral Appeals: TBA
Date of Offense: 07/08/05
Date of Sentence: 03/06/08
Circumstances of Offense:
Tiffany Cole was convicted and sentenced to death for the murders of James and Carol Sumner on 03/06/08.
On the night of 07/08/05, Cole, along with codefendants Michael Jackson, Bruce Nixon, Jr., and Alan Wade, robbed, kidnapped, and murdered the victims. The Sumners were friends with and previous neighbors of Cole’s father before they moved from the Charleston, South Carolina, area to Jacksonville, Florida. The plan to rob and murder the victims evolved from knowledge Cole already had about the victims and information she obtained from the victims in the weeks prior to the crimes. In June 2005, Cole and her boyfriend, Michael Jackson, went to Jacksonville to visit Jackson’s friend, Alan Wade. While in Jacksonville, Cole contacted the victims, and Cole and Jackson stayed one night at the victims’ home. During the visit, Mrs. Sumner confided to Cole that she and Mr. Sumner had recently sold their home near Charleston and had profited $99,000.
Following the initial trip to Jacksonville and additional trips between Charleston and Jacksonville, Cole, Jackson, Wade, and Wade’s friend, Bruce Nixon, developed a plan to rob the victims. Nixon testified that the foursome planned the robbery together and Cole was the one who knew the victims and who “set everything up.” The foursome ultimately decided they would kill the victims. Two days before the murders, Cole, Jackson, and Wade picked Nixon up in a Mazda RX-8 that Cole rented from an agency in South Carolina. The group selected a remote location in Georgia, just across the Florida State line, to dig a large hole. While Cole held a flashlight, Jackson, Wade, and Nixon dug the hole, which was approximately four feet deep and six feet square. The group left the shovels at the hole when they completed the excavation.
On July 8, 2005, Cole and her codefendants purchased duct tape and plastic wrap. Later that night, Cole drove the foursome to the victims’ home. Initially, Cole and Jackson remained outside in the rented Mazda. Wade and Nixon knocked on the door and, when Mrs. Sumner responded, Wade asked to use her telephone. After Mrs. Sumner allowed Wade and Nixon into her home, Wade ripped the telephone cord from the wall. Nixon held the victims at gunpoint with a toy gun, took the victims to a bedroom, and bound them with duct tape. After Wade and Nixon contacted Jackson through Nextel two-way radio phones—which the group used to communicate throughout the course of the crimes—Jackson entered the victims’ home. Jackson and Wade then searched the victims’ home for bank account records. Cole drove down the street and waited in the Mazda. Eventually, the victims were taken to their garage and forced into the trunk of their Lincoln Town Car. Cole drove back to the victims’ home in the Mazda after Jackson called her. Jackson placed a trash bag containing some of the victims’ belongings in the Mazda’s trunk and got into the Mazda. Wade and Nixon then drove the victims’ Lincoln, with Cole and Jackson following in the Mazda, to the remote Georgia location where they had previously dug the large hole. Upon arrival, Cole remained with the Mazda at the edge of the road, while her codefendants drove the Lincoln into the woods to the hole. At some point, Nixon joined Cole at the road. The evidence shows that only Jackson and Wade were present at the hole when the victims were put into the hole and buried alive. When Jackson returned from the woods to the Mazda, Jackson had the personal identification number (PIN) for the victims’ automated teller machine (ATM) card. The foursome drove both cars from the grave site to Sanderson, Florida, where they wiped down the Lincoln and abandoned it. The foursome then left in the Mazda, with Cole driving.
Upon being arrested, Nixon revealed to law enforcement officers the location where the victims were buried, and on July 16, 2005, the victims’ bodies were discovered. Dr. Anthony J. Clark, medical examiner for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, performed autopsies on the bodies and testified that both of the victims died as a result of mechanical obstruction of the airways by dirt. Essentially, the victims were buried alive and asphyxiated from the dirt particles smothering their airway passages.
Michael Jackson and Alan Wade were both convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and each received two death sentences.
Bruce Nixon, Jr. pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder. After testifying against Cole, Jackson, and Wade, Nixon received two concurrent sentences of 45 years’ imprisonment.
08/18/05 Indicted as follows:
Count I: First-Degree Murder
Count II: First-Degree Murder
Count III: Robbery
Count IV: Robbery
Count V: Kidnapping
Count VI: Kidnapping
10/19/07 Jury returned guilty verdicts on all counts of the indictment
03/06/08 Jury recommended death by a vote of 9-3
03/06/08 Sentenced as follows:
Count I: First-Degree Murder – Death
Count II: First-Degree Murder – Death
Count III: Robbery – 15 years
Count IV: Robbery – 15 years
Count V: Kidnapping – Life
Count VI: Kidnapping – Life
Florida Supreme Court – Direct Appeal
03/19/08 Appeal filed
03/11/10 The FSC affirmed the convictions and sentence of death
06/01/10 Rehearing denied
06/17/10 Mandate issued
United States Supreme Court – Petition for Writ of Certiorari
08/03/10 Petition filed
10/04/10 Petition denied
Cole filed a Direct Appeal in the Florida Supreme Court on 03/19/08. In that appeal, Cole argued that the trial court erred in (1) admonishing defense counsel for a cross-examination question to the State‘s witness, codefendant Nixon, concerning the parameters of Nixon‘s possible sentence under his plea agreement; (2) admitting photographs showing Cole and codefendants Jackson and Wade partying in Myrtle Beach before the murders; (3) instructing the jury on and in finding the avoid-arrest aggravating factor; (4) instructing the jury on and in finding the HAC aggravating factor; and (5) imposing death sentences that are disparate compared to codefendant Nixon‘s sentence of 45 years. Cole also contends that Florida‘s death penalty scheme is unconstitutional under Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584 (2002). The Florida Supreme Court did not find errors that warranted reversing the conviction or sentence. On 03/11/10, The Florida Supreme Court affirmed the conviction and sentence.
On 08/03/10, Cole filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari in the United States Supreme court. That petition was denied on 10/04/10.
Report Date: 03/16/10 KKR
Approved: 03/18/10 RM
Updated 10/13/10 JJK