The Commission on Capital Cases was not funded in the FY 2011-2012 General Appropriations Act, and the Commission ceased operations on June 30, 2011. This site and the Commission website are being retained to provide access to historical materials.

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Last NameFirst NamePictureDC NumberAgencyCase Summary
BrownJoseph Green 042546 Case Summary

Last Action

DateCourtCase NumberLast Action
3/5/1987  Released

Current Attorney


Last Updated

2008-01-09 11:43:13.0

Case Summary
Direct Links

The Commission on Capital Cases has complied this report using a varietyof sources

BROWN, Joseph Green (B/M)

DC # 042546

DOB:  10/02/50                 


Thirteenth Judicial Circuit, Hillsborough County, Case # 73-2180

Sentencing Judge:  The Honorable Robert W. Rawlins, Jr.

Attorney, Criminal Trial:  J. Michael Shea, Esq.   

Attorney, Direct Appeal:  J. Michael Shea, Esq. 


Date of Offense:         07/07/73

Date of Sentence:       07/03/74   


Circumstances of Offense:


Joseph Green Brown was convicted and sentenced to death forthe 07/07/73 rape and murder of Earlene Evans Barksdale.


Ronald Floyd revealed the relevant facts of this case attrial.  Floyd was with Joseph Brown prior to the crime and immediatelyafterwards.  Floyd testified that on 07/07/73, he, Brown, and a third man, known as “Poochie,” drove to the store where the murder would take place.  Floyd,reportedly unaware of his companion’s intentions, waited in the car while Brownand Poochie entered the store.  Floyd noted, however, that prior to enteringthe clothing store, Brown had what appeared to be a gun under his shirt.  Afterwaiting about 15 minutes, Floyd exited the car and walked over to the entranceof the store.  Floyd recalled hearing a gunshot, after which he immediatelyentered the store.  Inside the store, Floyd peered over the counter and saw thebody of Earlene Evans Barksdale lying close to a rear storage room.  Brown,Floyd and Poochie fled the scene and, while speeding away, Poochie exclaimed toBrown, “Man, you didn’t have to do that.”  Barksdale’s body was found at 9:30 p.m. that evening.  She had been raped and shot to death.


The same night of the Barksdale murder, Brown and Floydrobbed a couple at a motel and Brown sexually assaulted the woman (CC #73-1338).  Brown turned himself in to authorities the following day andimplicated Floyd in the motel robbery and sexual assault.  He and Floyd werearrested, and the man known as “Poochie” was never located.  Brown alertedpolice to the location of the gun used in the motel robbery, which belonged toa man named Raymond Vinson.  Vinson’s car was also used in the robbery, and hecharged as an accomplice in the crime.  Vinson’s gun, the one used in the motelrobbery, was also introduced as the alleged murder weapon in the Barksdalecase.  


Joseph Brown’s convictions for the rape, robbery and murderof Earlene Barksdale were based primarily on the testimony of Ronald Floyd.  Attrial, Floyd recalled that the day following the murder, he, Brown, and RaymondVinson heard a radio broadcast about the Barksdale murder.  Floyd claimed hestated something to the effect of “People will do anything these days” to whichBrown replied, “Yes, she should have never done what she did.”  The testimonyof Vinson corroborated that such a conversation did, in fact, take place. Floyd testified that he later confronted Brown directly, asking him if hekilled Barksdale.  Brown reportedly answered yes and then made some lewdcomment indicating that he had had sex with her. 


There was no fingerprint evidence linking Brown to theBarksdale murder, and the only physical evidence implicating Brown was Vinson’sgun.  State ballistic reports could not prove, however, that the bullet thatkilled Barksdale came from Vinson’s gun. 


Trial Summary:


11/07/73          Defendant indicted on the following:

                                    Count I:           First-DegreeMurder

                                    Count II:         Rape

                                    Count III:        Robbery

06/28/74          The jury found the defendant guilty on allcounts.

07/01/74          Upon advisory sentencing, the jury recommended, by a majority vote, thatthe defendant be sentenced to death.

07/03/74          The defendant was sentenced as followed:

                                    CountI:           First-Degree Murder – Death

                                    CountII:         Rape – Life

                                    CountIII:        Robbery – Life


Appellate Summary:


Florida Supreme Court, Direct Appeal

FSC # 46,925

381 So. 2d 690


02/18/75          Appealfiled.

01/31/80          FSC affirmed the convictions and sentence.

04/21/80          Rehearing denied.


Florida Supreme Court, Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus

FSC # 59,732

392 So. 2d 1327


09/29/80          Petition filed.

01/15/81          Petition denied.


United States Supreme Court,Petition for Writ of Certiorari

USSC # 80-5708

449 U.S. 1118


12/17/80          Petition filed.

01/19/81          Petition denied.


United States Supreme Court, Petition for Writ of Certiorari

USSC # 80-6434

454 U.S. 1000


04/03/81          Petition filed.

11/02/81          Petition denied.


State Circuit Court, Motion to Vacate Judgment andSentence (3.850)

CC # 73-2180


05/18/83          Motion filed.

10/04/83          Motion denied.


Florida Supreme Court, 3.850 Appeal & Petition for Writ ofError Coram Nobis

FSC # 64,348

439 So. 2d 872


10/07/83          Appeal filed.

10/12/83          Denial affirmed.


United States District Court, Middle District, Petition for Writ of HabeasCorpus

USDC # 83-1287-Civ-T-10


10/14/83          Petition filed.

03/06/85          Petition denied.


United States Court of Appeals for the11th Circuit, Habeas Appeal

USCA # 85-3217

785 F.2d 1457


03/26/85          Appeal filed.

03/17/86          USCA reversed the denial reached by the USDC, ordering the Habeas to beissued.




09/23/83          Death warrant signed by Governor Bob Graham.

10/27/83          Stay of execution granted by the United States District Court, MiddleDistrict.




10/12/82          Clemency hearing held (denied).


Case Information:


While on Direct Appealto the Florida Supreme Court, questions arose concerning the veracity of RonaldFloyd’s testimony that he was not given an immunity agreement by the State inexchange for his testimony against Brown.  While in prison on a completelyseparate robbery conviction, Floyd gave Brown’s defense counsel an affidavit inwhich he recanted his trial testimony and noted that the State offered“favorable consideration” in the motel robbery and in the Barksdale murder inexchange for his testimony against Brown.  The Florida Supreme Court remandedto the trial court for an evidentiary hearing on the issues raised in Floyd’saffidavit.  At the hearing, Floyd reaffirmed his trial testimony and the courtdenied Brown’s motion for a new trial.  While still on Direct Appeal, theFlorida Supreme Court remanded the case for a second time for an evidentiaryhearing based on an alleged Brady violation[1]. Brown contended that the State had statements made by Floyd to his counsel thatshould have been furnished to the defense before trial.  The trial court againdenied Brown’s motion for a new trial, stating that Brown’s defense receivedeverything it was entitled to.  The Florida Supreme Court noted that Floyd’stestimony at the 1975 evidentiary hearing claiming that he had not entered intoan immunity agreement with the State matched his trial testimony, regardless ofwhat he stated in the affidavit.  As such, the Florida Supreme Court affirmed hisconvictions and sentence on 01/31/80.   


Brown next filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari in theUnited States Supreme Court, which was denied on 01/19/81.


Brown additionally filed a Petition for Writ of HabeasCorpus, essentially claiming a Gardner violation[2],which was denied on 01/15/81.  He then filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorariin the United States Supreme Court, which was denied on 11/02/81.


Brown subsequently filed a Motion to Vacate Judgment andSentence (3.850) in the State Circuit Court.  Brown alleged ineffectiveassistance of counsel during the guilt and penalty phases of his criminaltrial.  Following an evidentiary hearing on the issue, the State Circuit Courtdenied all relief.  Brown filed an appeal of that decision in the FloridaSupreme Court, which affirmed the denial on 10/12/83.  Brown concurrently fileda Petition for Writ of Error Coram Nobis[3]. Brown obtained a videotape deposition of Ronald Floyd’s recanted testimony.  Inthe video, Floyd outlined his motivation for testifying against Brown,primarily his fear that the State Attorney’s Office would prosecute him for thesame crimes that Brown was charged with.  Floyd stated, that in exchange forhis testimony against Brown, he was promised that he would not be charged withmurder and would receive “favorable consideration” in another criminal case. Brown presented this new evidence as the basis for his Petition for Writ ofError Coram Nobis.  He argued that, had this information been known to thetrial court, “it conclusively would have prevented entry of the judgment.” Having examined the issue of Floyd’s recantation in a previous evidentiaryhearing, the Florida Supreme Court noted that Floyd reaffirmed his trialtestimony.  Brown claimed that Floyd’s retraction was caused by fear ofprosecution for perjury.  Since his counsel failed to object to the issueduring the hearing and did not raise the issue on appeal, the Florida SupremeCourt opined that Brown did not have credible grounds for his Petition for Writof Error Coram Nobis.


Brown next filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in theUnited States District Court, Middle District.  In that petition, he assertedthat the State knowingly presented false evidence to the jury when they failedto disclose that Ronald Floyd had, in fact, received “favorable consideration”for his crimes and allowed him to testify to the contrary.  The District Courtrecognized that a deal had been made between Floyd and the State, as evident inproffered testimony given by the State; however, the court held that Brown wasnot entitled to the writ because he had failed to show that Floyd’s falsetestimony was “material” to his conviction.  The high court denied Brown’sPetition for Writ of Habeas Corpus on 03/06/85.  Brown filed an appeal of thatdecision in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit on03/26/85.  The Court of Appeals also acknowledged that a deal had been madebetween Floyd and the State and decided to further examine the issue ofmateriality.  In Giglio v. U.S., the Supreme Court held, that in a casewhere the State knowingly introduces false evidence that “[a] new trial isrequired if ‘the false testimony could . . . in any reasonable likelihood haveaffected the judgment of the jury . . . .”  In noting that the prosecutionpresented Floyd’s false testimony that he did NOT receive a deal fromthe State, the Court of Appeals commented, “The government has a duty not toexploit false testimony by prosecutorial argument affirmatively urging to thejury the truth of what it knows to be false.”  The Court of Appeals ruled thatthe knowledge that Floyd had been given a plea arrangement in exchange for histestimony against Brown would have affected his credibility as a witness andwould have undoubtedly been “material” to Brown’s conviction.  Floyd’stestimony was material in that it was the only evidence that Brown admitted tokilling and raping Barksdale and was the only evidence that placed him at thescene.  As such, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuitreversed the order of the District Court and ordered that Brown’s Petition forWrit of Habeas Corpus be granted.


Brown’s convictions and sentence were overturned on10/06/86, and charges against him were nolle prossed.  He was released fromjail on 03/05/87.  


Law Enforcement/ Prosecution Statements:


A letter requestingcomment was sent to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department on 05/01/02. That request was forwarded to the Tampa Police Department on 05/09/02.  TheTampa Police Department responded by mailing a copy of the case file.


Henry Lavandera, whohandled the Brown case solely during post-conviction proceedings as anAssistant State Attorney, issued the following statement on the State’sdecision to nolle prosse the case:


I did not nolle prosse the case against Mr. Brown becauseI felt he was innocent, I nolle prossed it because I could not prove beyond andto the exclusion of every reasonable doubt that he was guilty.


The Eleventh Circuit's opinion provides an excellentrecitation of the facts of the case and the legal issues involved. Of note isthe fact that one of the reasons argued by Mr. Brown for reversal was thatthere was insufficient evidence of his guilt. However, as stated on page 1467of the opinion, Mr. Brown abandoned that issue and did not raise it on appeal.That is tantamount to an admission that there was sufficient evidence. Of noteas well, is the fact that the Court did not reverse and discharge the case, butrather the Court remanded the case with instructions that the writ be issued"subject to the right of the state to retry Brown."  As statedin the opinion, the case centered almost entirely around the testimony of Mr.Floyd. There were no fingerprints or any other trace evidence. Therewas no firearms identification evidence as to the weapon involved, andthere were no eye witnesses unless Mr. Floyd's trial testimony were to bebelieved. From the time of the Court's decision, until the day I nolle prossedthe case, I and investigators from the SAO attempted to assemble a case inorder to retry Mr. Brown. We went to state prison to interview Mr. Floydwho persisted that he had lied at trial. It was that fact above any otherthat compelled me to nolle prosse the case. Whether I believe that Mr. Floydwas being truthful or not is of no consequence. For me to have proceeded totrial under those circumstances would have been, in my opinion, a violation ofmy oath. Finally, it should be noted that Mr. Brown pled guilty to themotel robbery. I don't recall his sentence, but he would have been doing prisontime irrespective of the outcome of the Barksdale case.


Defense Statements:


Defense counsel J. Michael Sheacommented:


Joseph Green Brown got off after hisfifth appeal and had his stay granted 16 hours before death, because the casethe State forgot to tell us that their major witness was lying. The twoprosecutors went onto become judges although both are no longer on the bench.


After the case was reversed the State of Florida chose not to try Mr. Brown because there was not enough evidence to take the caseto trial.


Current Status:


There is no informationavailable as to Joseph Brown’s criminal history subsequent to his release.



Report Date:   04/30/02          ew

Approved:       05/02/02          ws

Updated:         05/29/02          ew

[1]Brady violation – an error committed when the State fails to discloseexculpatory evidence to the defense

[2] Gardner violation – a sentencing error committed when the trialjudge considers information unknown to the defendant or his counsel when imposingthe death penalty.

[3]Writ of Error Coram Nobis – A writ of error directed to a court for areview of its own judgment and alleged on an error of fact.