Date of Sentence: 08/26/99
Circumstances of the Offense:
Leo Perry was convicted and
sentenced to death for the 02/21/97 murder of John Johnson.
On the evening of 02/20/97,
Johnston checked into a motel in Pensacola. According to the clerk on
duty, no one was with Johnston when he checked in. The next morning
Johnston’s body was discovered in the bed with eight stab wounds.
Police found Perry’s fingerprint
on a soap wrapper that was inside the room. They also linked Perry’s
DNA to a bloodstain on a towel as well as his saliva on a cigarette butt
found at the scene. The victim’s blood was discovered on a light switch
in the bathroom.
According to Perry the two men
met when he was hitchhiking somewhere in Alabama when Johnston offered
him a ride. Perry stated that they drove to Pensacola when Johnston
decided to spend the night there.
Johnston offered to have Perry stay
in the room with him and continue on the road the next morning. Perry
accepted his offer. That night Perry said he went out to bars to drink
and smoke crack. He claimed that by the time he returned to the motel
room he was extremely intoxicated.
He further stated that he fell
asleep and awoke to Johnston masturbating while standing over Perry.
Perry said he was still intoxicated at that point and did not remember
what happened. He recalled sitting in a chair while Johnston’s body was
on the bed covered in blood. Perry cleaned up, covered Johnston’s body
and left in Johnston’s truck.
A woman who was in the room next
to Johnston stated that she heard noises coming from his room and later
saw a man resembling Perry drive off in Johnston’s truck. The Florida
Highway Patrol located the victim’s truck in Palm Beach County. The
driver of the truck told the Highway Patrol that Perry had lent the
truck to him in exchange for drugs. Perry’s fingerprints were
discovered on a plastic bag inside the truck.
11/24/97 Indicted as follows:
Count I: First-Degree
Jury returned guilty verdicts on all counts of the indictment
07/23/99 Jury recommended death by a vote of 10-2
08/26/99 Sentenced as follows:
Count I: First-Degree
Murder – Death
09/09/99, Perry filed a Direct Appeal to the Florida Supreme Court.
10/18/01, The Court affirmed the conviction but remanded the case to the
trial court for resentencing. The Court agreed with Perry’s argument
that the trial court should not have allowed his ex-wife to testify
about his violent behavior during the penalty phase.
Supreme Court stated that, in order for direct evidence to be admissible
in the penalty phase, it must be related to an aggravating
circumstance. The State never claimed that the testimony was relevant
to any aggravating circumstance. The State, however, argued that the
defense had “opened the door” to the testimony by claiming Perry was a
nonviolent person during the guilty phase.
Florida Supreme Court noted that the State’s answer brief did not refer
to the record where the defense claimed Perry was nonviolent. As a
result, the Court found the testimony of Perry’s ex-wife to be
inadmissible nonstatutory aggravation.
Leo Edward Perry Jr.