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Derrick Tyrone SMITH





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: March 21, 1983
Date of birth: August 7, 1962
Victim profile: Jeffery Songer (cab driver)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Pinellas County, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on November 29, 1983. Resentenced to death on July 13, 1990

The United States Court of Appeals
For the Eleventh Circuit


opinion 07-14173


Supreme Court of Florida


opinion 64670

opinion 76491

opinion SC03-454


DC#  490606
DOB:  08/07/62

Sixth Judicial Circuit, Pinellas County, Case #83-2653
Sentencing Judge: The Honorable William W. Walker
Resentencing Judge:  The Honorable Claire K. Luten
Attorneys, Trial: Richard G. Smith and Thomas Dennely – Assistant Public Defenders
Attorney, Direct Appeal (1st): W.C. McLain – Assistant Public Defender
Attorney, Direct Appeal (2nd):  Paul C. Helm – Assistant Public Defender
Attorney, Collateral Appeals:  Martin McClain – Registry 

Date of Offense: 03/21/83

Date of Sentence (1st): 11/29/83

Date of Sentence (2nd): 07/13/90

Circumstances of Offense:

Derrick Tyrone Smith was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Jeffery Songer. 

On 03/21/83, Derrick Smith and Derrick Johnson carried out a robbery which they had previously planned.  Following their plan, Smith called for a cab from a St. Petersburg restaurant payphone. 

A cab driver, Jeffery Songer, picked up the two men who requested to be taken to a nearby residential area.  After becoming suspicious, Songer radioed an emergency code to his dispatch.  His dispatch called the police and also sent another cab driver to answer Songer’s distress call.  The police and other cab driver found Songer lying about 70 feet from the car, dead from a gunshot wound to the back.

A witness was able to identify Smith and Johnson.  He testified to seeing Smith shoot Songer in the back when he tried to run from the taxicab.  Another witness testified at trial to Smith robbing him and his wife in their motel room at gunpoint with a firearm similar to the one used to kill Songer.  Smith pled guilty to those charges and received a life sentence. 

The firearm used to kill Songer was never found.  Smith’s uncle, however, reported that a firearm of the same type, a .38-caliber pistol, was missing from his home which several people testified to seeing Smith with shortly before the murder. 

Furthermore, the police were able to match the type of bullet that killed Songer to bullets that Smith’s uncle had bought for his missing firearm.  Smith’s fingerprints were also found on the restaurant pay telephone that had been used to call for the taxicab.

During the investigation, Smith said that he had sold the firearm the day before the murder to Johnson.  Smith admitted that he called for the taxicab, but claims that at the last minute he changed his mind about the robbery and decided not to go.

Additional Information:

Codefendant Information: Derrick Johnson (Pinellas County Circuit Court # 83-2904)

Derrick Johnson was convicted of Second Degree Murder on 12/20/83 for his role in the murder of Songer on 03/21/93.  Johnson received a life sentence.

Trial Summary:

05/24/83          Smith was indicted on the following counts:

Count I: First-Degree Murder

11/10/83          Smith was found guilty for Count I of the indictment at the first trial.

11/10/83         Upon advisory sentencing, the jury, by a 7 to 5 majority, voted for the death penalty.

11/29/83          Smith was sentenced as follows:

Count I: First-Degree Murder Death

07/17/86          FSC reversed the conviction and sentence and remanded the case to the trial court for a new trial.

05/12/90          The jury found Smith guilty for Count I of the indictment at the second trial.

05/16/90          Upon advisory sentencing, the jury, by an 8 to 4 majority, voted for the death penalty.

07/13/90          Smith was sentenced as follows:

Count I: First-Degree Murder Death

Case Information:

Smith filed his Direct Appeal in the Florida Supreme Court on 12/27/83.  The Florida Supreme Court determined that the State made an inappropriate comment about Smith exercising his right to remain silent during the investigation at the trial and that the trial court admitted statements made by the Defendant after the he had established that he would exercise his right to remain silent. 

The Florida Supreme Court reversed the conviction and sentence on 07/17/86 and remanded the case for a new trial.  Rehearing was denied on 09/10/86.  A mandate was issued on 10/17/86. 

On remand from the Florida Supreme Court, the jury found Smith guilty of First-Degree Murder on 05/12/90 and recommended the sentence of death by a majority of 8 to 4 on 05/16/90.  Smith was sentenced to death on 07/13/90.

Smith filed his Direct Appeal in the Florida Supreme Court on 08/16/90.  Addressed issues included the disproportionateness of the death sentence in this case and that the trial court erred in not conducting an adequate Richardson inquiry.  Furthermore, Smith argued that the trial court violated his right to effective counsel and to confront witnesses. 

The Florida Supreme Court did not find errors that warranted reversing the conviction or sentence and affirmed the conviction and sentence on 06/09/94.  Rehearing was denied on 09/12/94.  A mandate was issued on 10/14/94.

Smith filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari on 12/12/94 with the United States Supreme Court.  The petition was denied on 02/21/95.

Smith filed a 3.850 Motion on 04/01/97 with the circuit court.  Smith filed amended 3.850 Motions on 10/21/98, 12/06/99, 04/03/00, 09/18/00, 01/11/02 and 03/13/02.  An evidentiary hearing was held on 07/23/02.  The motion was denied on 02/11/03.

Smith filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari on 04/01/02 with the United States Supreme Court.  The petition was denied on 06/28/02.  Rehearing was denied on 08/26/02.

Smith filed a 3.850 Appeal with the Florida Supreme Court on 03/13/03.  He raised five claims in the appeal.  First, he argued that the State withheld exculpatory evidence and presented false and misleading evidence.  Next, he argued that error occurred in the circuit court when they limited the scope of his evidentiary hearing. 

Smith also argued that his counsel was ineffective during the guilt phase and penalty phase of his trial. Finally, he argued that a newly discovered witness provides evidence of his innocence.  On 03/09/06, the Florida Supreme Court affirmed the denial of Smith’s 3.850 Motion.

On 01/18/05, Smith filed a Habeas Petition with the Florida Supreme Court.  Smith claimed that the court’s disposition of his direct appeal rests on erroneous fact and that the State failed to disclose pertinent facts regarding his direct appeal.  He also claimed his counsel was ineffective and that the Florida capital sentencing scheme violates Ring, 536 U.S. 584.  The petition was denied on 03/09/06.



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