Defendant's Death Sentence Upheld Where Victim Had a Domestic Relationship With Defendant

In Pooler v. State, 704 So. 2d 1375 (Fla. 1997), the trial court found the following statutory aggravating circumstances: (1) prior violent felony conviction (a contemporaneous attempted first-degree murder); (2) crime was committed during a burglary; (3) heinous atrocious and cruel (HAC). See id. at 1377. The trial court found one statutory mitigating circumstance that the crime was committed while under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance, and the following nonstatutory mitigating circumstances: "the defendant's honorable service in the military and good employment record, as well as the fact that he was a good parent, had done specific good deeds, possessed certain good characteristics, and could be sentenced to life without parole or consecutive life sentences." Id. After reviewing the trial court's sentence of death, the Supreme Court of Florida stated: We have never approved a per se "domestic dispute" exception to the imposition of the death penalty. As we explained in Spencer v. State, 691 So. 2d 1062 (Fla. 1997), there have been cases involving domestic disputes in which we struck the cold, calculated, and premeditated (CCP) aggravator on the basis that the heated passions involved negated the "cold" element of CCP. However, our reason for reversing the death penalty in those cases was that the striking of that aggravator rendered the death sentence disproportionate in light of the overall circumstances. See: White v. State, 616 So. 2d 21 (Fla. 1993); Santos v. State, 591 So. 2d 160 (Fla. 1991); Douglas v. State, 575 So. 2d 165 (Fla. 1991); Farinas v. State, 569 So. 2d 425 (Fla. 1990); Wright v. State, 688 So. 2d 298 (Fla. 1996) (finding death sentence disproportionate where aggravating circumstances of prior violent felony and commission during a burglary were all related to defendant's ongoing struggle with the victim and evidence in mitigation was copious); Nibert v. State, 574 So. 2d 1059 (Fla. 1990) (death sentence vacated as disproportionate in light of all the mitigating evidence that should have been found where sole aggravating circumstance was HAC). Indeed, we have upheld the death penalty as proportionate in a number of cases where the victim had a domestic relationship with the defendant. See: Spencer v. State, 645 So. 2d. 377, 384 (Fla. 1994); Cummings-El v. State, 684 So. 2d 729 (Fla. 1996); Henry v. State, 649 So. 2d 1366 (Fla. 1994); Porter v. State, 564 So. 2d 1060 (Fla. 1990). In Spencer, the Court affirmed the defendant's death sentence for the murder of his wife where the trial court found the aggravating circumstances of prior violent felony conviction and HAC and a number of mitigating circumstances, both statutory and nonstatutory.