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Leo Edward PERRY Jr.





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Hitchhiking - Robbery
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: February 21, 1997
Date of birth: April 2, 1969
Victim profile: John Johnson (male, 75)
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: Escambia County, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on August 26, 1999

Florida Supreme Court

opinion SC96499

DC# P06489              
DOB: 04/02/69

First Judicial Circuit, Escambia County Case# 97-4992
Sentencing Judge:  The Honorable Joseph Q. Tarbuck
Attorney, Trial:  Michael R. Rollo – Assistant Public Defender
Attorney, Direct Appeal:  Michael R. Rollo – Court-appointed

Date of Offense:  02/21/97     

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.

Trial Summary:

11/24/97          Indicted as follows:

Count I:           First-Degree Murder

07/22/99          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

Case Information:

On 09/09/99, Perry filed a Direct Appeal to the Florida Supreme Court. 

On 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. 

The Florida 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. 

The 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.



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