HAC Erroneously Applied Despite Overwhelming Evidence of the Defendant's Involvement
In Perez v. State, 919 So. 2d 347, 378 (Fla. 2005), the court held that heinous atrocious and cruel (HAC) was erroneously vicariously applied to Perez, despite overwhelming evidence showing that Perez was involved in preparation for at least a robbery, in covering up the murder, and in pawning the victim's belongings.
Perez's bloody shoeprint was next to the victim's body; his own statement directly placed him at the crime scene; and he admitted to disposing of his shoes on the night of the crime because there was blood on them. Id. at 370.
Additionally, Perez had cut the victim's phone lines and disabled the security lights before the murder. Id. Perez admitted that he helped dispose of evidence, including the murder weapon, and that he pawned items taken during the crime. Id.
The medical examiner's evidence showed that the victim had been stabbed at least ninety-four times. Id.
The only eyewitness testimony presented at trial was Perez's statement in which he never admitted striking the victim and consistently stated that the codefendant committed the murder of his own accord and without prior discussion with or notice to Perez.
Based on this record, the Court concluded:
Given the trial court's failure to make the findings required by Omelus to apply the HAC aggravator vicariously to Perez, and the lack of any evidence establishing that Perez directed or otherwise knew that Martin would be killed or the manner of death, we conclude that the trial court erred in applying the HAC aggravator to Perez.
Although the record clearly demonstrates that the manner in which Martin was murdered may qualify as HAC under our previous case law, the Court concluded that the evidence does not support the application of that aggravating circumstance vicariously to Perez under the only evidence in this record. Id. at 381.