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Last NameFirst NamePictureDC NumberAgencyCase Summary
WrightJoel 749768CCRC-SCase Summary

Last Action

DateCourtCase NumberLast Action
11/29/2006FSC06-23533.203 Appeal
5/1/2007FSC06-2353Intial brief filed
6/18/2007FSC06-2353Answer filed
8/19/2007FSC06-2353Reply filed
9/25/2008FSC06-2353Disposition affirmed; 3.203 Motion Appeal denied
10/10/2008FSC06-2353Motion for Rehearing filed
11/20/2008FSC06-2353Rehearing denied
12/8/2008FSC06-2353Mandate issued
2/6/2009USDC-M09-99Habeas petition filed
2/24/2010USDC-M09-99Amended Petition filed
7/19/2010USDC-M09-99Response to Amended Petition filed
10/18/2010USDC-M09-99Reply to State's response to amended petition

Current Attorney


Last Updated

2008-01-09 11:43:13.0

Case Summary
Direct Links

The Commission on Capital Cases updates this information regularly

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


WRIGHT, Joel Dale (W/M)

DC #    749768

DOB:   08/28/57


Seventh Judicial Circuit, Putnam County, Case #83-376

Sentencing Judge: The Honorable Robert R. Perry

Attorney, Trial: Howard Pearl – Assistant Public Defender

Attorney, Direct Appeal: Larry Henderson – Assistant PublicDefender

Attorneys, Collateral Appeals: Martin McClain & JohnAbatecola – CCRC-S


Date of Offense: 02/06/83

Date of Sentence: 09/23/83


Circumstances of Offense:


On 02/06/83, the body of 75-year-old Lima Smith wasdiscovered in the bedroom of her home.  Smith’s body was found by herbrother, who became worried about her when she failed to answer the door. Smith had been stabbed multiple times in her face and neck and had beensexually assaulted.


Charles Westberry, a witness for the State, testified that,on the morning of 02/06/83, Joel Wright came to his home and confessed tokilling Smith.  Wright acknowledged that he entered her home through anopen window with the intention of stealing money from her purse.  Wrightadmitted to killing her because she saw him in the hallway and could identifyhim.  Wright indicated that he did not want to go back to prison. Wright then asked Westberry to provide an alibi for him.  Several weekslater, when Westberry informed his wife of the circumstances, she notified thepolice. 


Police reports indicated that Wright’s fingerprint waslifted from inside Smith’s home.  Evidence was also introduced that Wrighthad burglarized Smith’s home on a previous occasion, having gained access tothe house through an open window.


Prior Incarceration History in the State of Florida:



Offense Date


Sentence Date


Prison Sentence Length








Trial Summary:


04/22/83         The defendant was indicted on the following charges:

                                   Count I:          First-Degree Murder

                                   Count II:         Sexual Battery

                                   Count III:        Burglary of a Dwelling

                                   Count IV:        Second-Degree Grand Theft

09/01/83         The jury found the defendant guilty of all counts charged in the


09/02/83         Upon advisory sentencing, the jury, by a 9 to 3 majority, voted for the

imposition of thedeath penalty.

09/23/83         The defendant was sentenced as followed:

                                   Count I:          First-Degree Murder - Death

                                   Count II:         Sexual Battery – 99years

                                   Count III:        Burglary of a Dwelling –15 years

                                   Count IV:        Second-Degree Grand Theft –5 years


Appeal Summary:


Florida Supreme Court – Direct Appeal

FSC #64,391

473 So. 2d 1277


10/17/83         Appeal filed.

07/03/85         FSC affirmed the convictions and sentence of death.

08/30/85         Rehearing denied.

10/07/85         Mandate issued.


United States Supreme Court – Petition for Writ ofCertiorari

USSC #85-5747

474 U.S. 1094


10/29/85         Petition filed.

01/21/86         Petition denied


State Circuit Court – 3.850 Motion

CC #83-376


02/22/88         Motion filed.

06/08/89         Motion denied.


Florida Supreme Court – 3.850 Appeal

FSC #74,775

581 So. 2d 882


09/26/89         Appeal filed.

05/09/91         FSC remanded to the State Circuit Court for an evidentiary hearing on

Wright’s claim that his “publicdefender’s service as a special deputy sheriff affected his ability to provideeffective legal assistance.”

07/26/91         Mandate issued.


State Circuit Court - 3.850 Motion (On Remand FromFSC)

CC #83-376


05/09/91         FSC remanded to the State Circuit Court for an evidentiary hearing on Wright’sclaim that his “public defender’s service as a special deputy sheriff affectedhis ability to provide effective legal assistance.”

06/05/00         Following an evidentiary hearing, Wright’s 3.850 Motion was again denied.


Florida Supreme Court – 3.850 Appeal

FSC #SC00-1389

857 So.2d 861


06/29/00         Appeal filed.

07/03/03         Denial Affirmed.


Florida Supreme Court – Petition for Writ of HabeasCorpus

FSC #SC01-2866

857 So.2d 861


12/31/01         Petition filed.

07/07/03         Petition denied.


United States Supreme Court – Petition for Writ ofCertiorari

USSC #03-8419         

541 U.S. 961


01/08/04         Petition filed.

03/29/04         Petition denied.


State Circuit Court – 3.851 Motion

CC #83-376


08/06/04         Motion filed.

03/23/06         Motion denied.


Florida Supreme Court – 3.203 Motion Appeal, DNAtesting

FSC# 06-2353

995 So.2d 324


11/29/06         Appeal filed.

09/25/08         Denial affirmed.

10/10/08         Motion for Rehearing filed.

11/20/08         Rehearing denied.

12/08/08         Mandate issued.


United States District Court, Middle District –Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus

USDC# 09-99



02/06/09         Petition filed.

02/24/10          Amended Petition filed.


Factors Contributing to the Delay in the Imposition ofSentence:


With the remand from the Florida Supreme Court, Wright’s 3.850Motion was pending from 1988 through 2000.


Case Information:


On 10/17/83, Wright filed a Direct Appeal in the FloridaSupreme Court.  In that appeal, he argued that the trial court erred byrefusing to allow the proffered testimony of witness Kathy Waters.  Watershad followed the events of the trial and read about the case in thenewspaper.  Prior to final arguments, Waters came forward with testimonyindicating that, on the night of the murder, she saw a man fitting thedescription of the appellant walking along Highway 19 in the opposite directionof the victim’s home.  She also offered proffered testimony that she sawthree unfamiliar men “congregated” near the victim’s house.  The Stateargued that allowing such evidence would be in violation of the rule ofsequestration.  The Florida Supreme Court noted that “the trial judgeerred in failing to exercise his discretion to determine whether exclusion waswarranted under the circumstances, and, instead, applied the sequestration ruleas a strict rule of law.”  The Florida Supreme Court, however, found thiserror to be harmless given that the admittance of such evidence would have notchanged the verdict.  Wright also argued that trial court erred inallowing evidence of a prior crime and in its application of the “avoid arrest”aggravating factor.  Additionally, Wright contended that the considerationand application of the cold, calculated and premeditated (CCP) aggravatingfactor was an error.  The Florida Supreme Court agreed that the CCP factorwas not proven beyond a reasonable doubt.  In light of the otheraggravating factors and the limited mitigating circumstances, however, theFlorida Supreme Court affirmed the convictions and sentence of death on07/03/85.


Wright next filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari in theUnited States Supreme Court, which was denied on 01/21/86.


Wright then filed a 3.850 Motion in the State CircuitCourt.  That motion was denied on 06/08/89, after which, Wright filed anappeal in the Florida Supreme Court.  On 05/09/91, the Florida SupremeCourt remanded the case to the State Circuit Court for an evidentiary hearingon Wright’s claim that his “public defender’s service as a special deputysheriff affected his ability to provide effective legal assistance.”  Followingan evidentiary hearing on the matter, the State Circuit Court again denied allrelief.  Wright filed an appeal of that decision in the Florida SupremeCourt, which was affirmed on 07/03/03.


On 12/31/01, Wright filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus,which was also denied on 07/03/03.


On 01/08/04, Wright filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorariin the United States Supreme Court.  The petition was denied on 03/29/04.


Wright filed a 3.851 Motion in the State Circuit Court on08/06/04.  Wright raised two claims in his 3.851 Motion.  His firstclaim was that affidavits submitted by two individuals are Brady material orare newly discovered evidence.  The court found them to be neither. Wright’s second claim was a request for testing of certain biological evidencethat was collected at the scene of the crime.  The circuit court deniedWright’s second claim as well.  The motion was denied on 03/23/06. 


Wright filed a 3.203 Motion Appeal in the Florida SupremeCourt on 11/29/06. On 09/25/08, the Florida Supreme Court affirmed the CircuitCourt’s denial of Wright’s 3.203 Motion.  On 10/10/08, Wright filed aMotion for Rehearing in the Florida Supreme Court.  This motion was deniedon 11/20/08.  On 12/08/08, the Florida Supreme Court issued a mandate inthis case.


On 02/06/09, Wright filed a Petition for Writ of HabeasCorpus in the United States District Court, Middle District.  This petition wasamended on 02/24/10.  This petition is currently pending. 


Institutional Adjustment:



DATE        DAYS                    VIOLATION                       LOCATION          

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

02/29/88         0                     POSS OFNEGOTIABLES   FSP  

09/08/91         0                     GAMBLING ORPOSS.                  FSP  

11/22/93         0                     DISOBEYINGORDER                   UNION C.I.            

06/29/94         0                     DISOBEYINGORDER                   UNION C.I.            

08/04/94         0                     UNAUTH USEOF DRUGS UNION C. I.            

10/06/94         0                     UNAUTH USEOF DRUGS UNION C. I.            

12/06/94         0                     POSS OFCONTRABAND              UNION C.I.

12/09/94         0                     DISOBEYINGORDER                   UNION C.I.            

08/14/95         0                     MISUSE OFSTATE PROP  UNION C. I.            

05/28/98         0                    FIGHTING                                        UNION C.I.            

06/17/98         0                     POSS OFCONTRABAND              UNION C.I.            

08/01/01         0                     DISOBEYINGORDER                   UNION C.I.            

02/09/03         0                     DISRESP.TOOFFICIALS              UNION C.I.            




Report:           03/04/03          EW

Approved:      03/13/03          WS

Updated:         03/04/10         MJH