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Robert Dwayne MORRIS





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: September 1, 1994
Date of birth: March 3, 1963
Victim profile: Violet Livingston, 88
Method of murder: Multiple injuries (the victim had bruises, lacerations, rib fractures, a brain hemorrhage, and mechanical asphyxia due to suffocation)
Location: Polk County, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on April 13, 1999

Florida Supreme Court

opinion SC95623 opinion SC04-1594

DC# 550026
DOB: 03/03/63

Tenth Judicial Circuit, Polk County, Case# CF94-3961A1-XX
Sentencing Judge:  The Honorable Robert A. Young
Trial Attorney:  Rex Dimmig – Assistant Public Defender
Attorney, Direct Appeal:  Steven L. Bolotin – Assistant Public Defender
Attorney, Collateral Appeals:  Richard E. Kiley & James V. Viggiano – CCRC-M

Date of Offense:  09/01/94

Date of Sentence:  04/13/99

Circumstances of the Offense:

Violet Livingston’s son discovered her body on the morning of 09/02/94.  The body was found between two beds; both beds were disheveled.  The bed sheets were wrapped tightly around her head.  Blood was found on the walls and the victim’s walking cane was found on one of the beds.

The medical examiner testified that the cause of death was multiple injuries.  The victim had bruises, lacerations, rib fractures, a brain hemorrhage, and mechanical asphyxia due to suffocation.  

The injuries on her neck were consistent with her being strangled. She also had defensive wounds on her right forearm, hand, and knee.  Many of the wounds were consistent with being beaten with a cane.  The sequence of wounds could not be determined, but the medical examiner testified that the victim was alive during the beginning of the attack.

Outside of the apartment a screen was leaning against the building.  It had been taken off the kitchen window.  The window was still closed, but the glass had been broken to gain entry into the apartment.  A yellow chair had been placed under the porch light and the cover of the light had been taken off and placed on the ground.

Morris’ fingerprints were found on a partially unscrewed light bulb that was outside of the apartment. Morris’ fingerprints did not match any that were found inside of the apartment.  Fluids containing DNA were found in two locations on the victim’s body and on the curtain in the kitchen.  These samples matched Morris’ DNA.  

Several of the victim’s belongings were found in Morris’ possessions, some of which were coins from a rare coin collection.  Witnesses testified that Morris made purchases with rare coins at a gas station near the victim’s residence.

When Morris took the stand, he admitted that he attempted to steal a bicycle from the victim’s apartment complex, but denied murdering the victim.  He also admitted that he unscrewed the light bulb and went upstairs, because he had seen a bike at the top of the stairs.  He stated that he was unable to take the bike because it was locked.

Additional Information: 

At the time of the murder, Morris was on parole in the state of Missouri for two robbery convictions.

Trial Summary:

09/29/94          Indicted as follows:

Count I: First-Degree Murder
Count II: Burglary
Count III: Sexual Battery
Count IV: Armed Robbery

10/04/94          Defendant entered a plea of not guilty

09/25/97          Motion to sever Count III filed

10/03/97          Motion to sever was granted

12/30/98          Judgment of acquittal entered on Count III

03/04/99          Defendant was found guilty on all counts of the indictment

03/11/99          Jury recommended death by a vote of 8-4

04/13/99          Sentenced as follows:

Count I: First-Degree Murder – Death
Count II: Burglary – Life
Count IV: Armed Robbery – Life

Case Information:

Morris filed a Direct Appeal to the Florida Supreme Court on 05/19/99.  Morris argued that the court should not have excluded the testimony from one defense witness and that he should be granted a new trial due to improper juror contact.  The Court found no error and affirmed Morris’ conviction and sentence on 02/21/02.  The mandate was issued on 03/14/02.

On 03/03/03, Morris filed a 3.850 Motion to the Circuit Court, which was denied on 07/12/04.

Morris filed a 3.850 Appeal to the Florida Supreme Court on 08/13/04. 

On the 04/20/06, the Court affirmed the trial court’s order denying Morris’s 3.850 Motion.  Based on the Court’s conclusion, Morris has failed to establish that any of the claims raised on appeal have merit or are not procedurally barred, and determine that Morris was not deprived of a fundamentally fair trial.  Morris’s motion for a rehearing (filed in this case only) was denied on 06/02/06.  The mandate was issued on 06/19/06.

Morris filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus to the Florida Supreme Court on 02/03/05, which was denied on 04/20/06.  The mandate was issued on 06/19/06.



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