Convicted murderer pleads guilty to prison murder

OKEECHOBEE — On May 21, the third day of the trial, convicted murderer Michael Lawrence Woodbury, 42, of Windham, Maine, changed his plea to “guilty as charged” to the Sept. 22, 2017 first degree premeditated murder of his Okeechobee Correctional Institution (OCI) cell mate, Antoneeze Haynes when he struck Haynes repeatedly with a padlock.

The penalty phase in which Woodbury will receive either life imprisonment or the death penalty is tentatively set to begin July 23.

Michael Lawrence Woodbury

The trial began on Thursday, May 17, with Woodbury choosing to represent himself with the presence of standby counsel Stanley Glenn and Shane Manship. Prosecuting the case on behalf of the State of Florida were assistant state attorneys from the 19th Judicial Circuit, Ashley Albright and Don Richardson, and presiding over the criminal case was St. Lucie County Circuit Judge Sherwood Bauer.

Judge Bauer found Woodbury competent upon waiving his right to counsel on multiple occasions throughout the trial. Woodbury objected to the multiple readings of his waiver of counsel rights on what he deemed as “harassment” by the state.

In his opening statement Mr. Richardson described the injuries Haynes sustained during an altercation with Woodbury in their cell: “Several brain hemorrhages and bruises, broken jaw bone and 11 lacerations to the torso. More than a dozen lacerations and abrasions to the extremities. Almost every rib in his body was fractured, a fractured sternum, broken fingers and toes, and one missing tooth, root and all.”

The medical examiner later testified that the injuries sustained by Haynes, “certainly would,” have been consistent with those caused by a padlock used to strike the victim. She said the injuries included “21 lacerations and abrasions to the face and skull area, 11 lacerations and abrasions to the torso.”

The medical examiner also testified that the cause of death to Haynes was determined as blood loss from severe amounts of physical trauma, “consistent with torturing and extreme amounts of suffering.”

Mr. Richardson quoted a reported statement by Woodbury according to witness, “Call me Phoenix! Call me Phoenix! I’m in control now, I’m in control! You try to come into this cell and I’ll kill him and I’ll kill the first officer who comes in.”

Mr. Richardson also recited Woodbury’s audio recorded statements to Haynes in the cell to the jury, “I know it hurts, I know it hurts, it’s called torture! Welcome to the house of pain, it actually exists, it’s on the ninth level of hell, I used to run it.”

Woodbury used his opening remarks to tell the jury his version of events.

“This case is first and foremost, from my perspective, about how my cell mate, Haynes, attempted to rape and sexually assault me while asleep in my bed in the middle of the night,” he said. “This case is secondly about how I reacted to Haynes’ rape attempt in a way that ultimately led to his death.”

He said that he and Haynes apparently got off on a bad foot initially and that he thought things were smoothed over after he provided coffee to Haynes in the preceding days.

“Long story short, he took my kindness for weakness, which happens in prison all the time.

At about 2:30 a.m. to 3 a.m., I feel a hand on my upper leg and groin area. I struggled to wake up, then slapped his hand away upon coming fully awake.” Woodbury then told the members of the jury that Haynes was supposedly telling him to roll over, as he attempted to sexually assault him.

“I jumped off the bunk and put on my boots. Haynes thinks I’m going to kick on the door to summon the cops in the officers’ station to tell on him. I take his boots and launch them at his head. One hits him in the shoulder the other bounces behind the locker, and I tell him ‘Put on your boots and prepare to defend your life, you played, now you gonna pay.’”

Woodbury said Haynes did not know how to respond, comparing it to, “a matador charging a bull,” or, “a gazelle now biting on the lion,” stating it was too much for Haynes.

Woodbury then said that as Haynes went to get the boot from behind the locker, “I thought, ‘I’m not giving this dude a fair fight, at all.’ I then proceeded to kick him in the face like a 50-yard field goal that would’ve been good from 60. We had another fight after that. In short I went berserk.

“Yes, I used excessive force. Yes the punishment did not fit the crime, I admit that freely, but is it premeditated first degree murder? No, this is me going berserk and staying in a form of berserk. I just couldn’t stop, this case is ultimately about Haynes’ attempt to rape me.”

A witness called by the state testified to leaving the Florida Department of Corrections because of the experience, responding to the attack from Woodbury on Haynes. Mr. Albright asked the witness, “At some point did he ask you if you thought he was crazy?,” to which the witness responded, “Yes, after he would hit him (Haynes) he would ask, ‘Am I crazy?’ at that time I told him ‘No, I don’t think you’re crazy, I think you’re misunderstood and not understanding what’s going on’ he said, ‘Oh, so you don’t think I’m crazy?’ He then raised three fingers, wiped the back of the other inmate’s head covered in blood, sat down on his locker, licked his fingers and said ‘Am I crazy now?’”

The witness then stated that Woodbury repeatedly hit Haynes in the back of the head and blood would “squirt over the walls.”

He said Woodbury hit Haynes more than 50 times.

A witness from Okeechobee Correctional Institution (OCI) testified that Woodbury said, “Go get me a white shirt (supervisor), we have a hostage situation … I have the power now,” and that Woodbury, “appeared frantic.”

Another OCI witness said, “I tried to talk to inmate Woodbury and he responded, ‘I’m not talking to no sergeant,’ I heard a thud and he stated to me, ‘That was because of you,” striking Haynes as Woodbury’s requests were not being met.

A nearly 2-hour long video was played for jury members in conjunction with the state’s final witness, who spent much of the time during the incident speaking with Woodbury.

The witness said Woodbury had barricaded the cell door: “It’s like taking a broomstick handle in a sliding glass door track. It is really a poor design from when the prison was built.”

According to the witness testimony, Woodbury asked to be transferred back up north to New Hampshire and was aware of the camera operators videoing him when he addressed them and then struck Haynes.

Woodbury took the stand and claimed that the barricaded door claim by OCI was a maneuver to cover the mistakes made by the agency’s personnel during the incident. “I put them in a bad position,” Woodbury stated of having Haynes hostage until the tactical cell teams arrived for the extraction.

After he finished his testimony on the stand, Woodbury then pleaded guilty, avoiding cross examination by the prosecution.

Defendant allowed to represent himself

According to Vol. 18, Issue 4, Article 3, The Right To Waive Competent Counsel: Extending the Faretta Waiver by Augustine Gerrard Yee.

“Under the Sixth Amendment, a criminal defendant is guaranteed the right to counsel. Incorporated within this right is the right to waive counsel and represent oneself in a criminal proceeding. Accordingly, the Supreme Court in Faretta v. California held that, under the Sixth Amendment, a criminal defendant has the right to waive the assistance of counsel and to represent himself at trial. Because courts have relied upon Faretta in determining the applicable waiver standard where a defendant wishes to proceed with incompetent counsel, an analysis of the Court’s decision is necessary.

The court declared that an accused may waive the assistance of counsel and proceed pro se if a valid waiver is knowingly and intelligently made. This is to ensure that the defendant is “aware of the dangers and disadvantages of self-representation so that the record will establish that ‘he knows what he is doing and his choice is made with his eyes open.’” The trial judge must inquire into and advise the defendant of the dangers and complications associated with the decision to proceed pro se. Such inquiry should be reflected on the court record as an explicit dialogue to protect against reversal. Because a defendant has a constitutional right to receive counsel, until that right is validly waived, a court which allows a defendant to proceed without a valid waiver is in essence denying the defendant constitutional protection. Therefore, an implied waiver of a constitutional right is generally not presumed. To be effective, a valid waiver must be received by the court, and reflected on the court record.

“In electing to represent himself, an accused abandons his right to competent counsel and loses the opportunity to argue ineffectiveness of counsel upon appeal. However, the right to represent oneself is not absolute and the trial judge may restrict, prevent, or terminate the defendant’s pro se status if the trial proceedings are seriously disrupted. A trial court’s arbitrary disallowance of a valid waiver is grounds for reversal.”

And according to Competency to Waive Right to Counsel in The Journal of American Academy of Psychiatry and Law by Lia N. Rohler and Debra A. Pinals, “Although the ruling in Godinez v. Moran, 509 U.S. 389 (1993), established that the elements of decision-making at trial fall under one standard for competency to stand trial and Faretta v. California established that defendants have a right to represent themselves, Indiana v. Edwards established that when a defendant seeks to waive his right to counsel, a determination that he is competent to stand trial is not enough. It is important to note that a defendant does not need extensive knowledge of the legal system to represent himself. Furthermore, although no formal standard for competence to represent oneself was decided on by the U.S. Supreme Court, a defendant likely does need sufficient presence of mind to represent himself, which can be hampered by symptoms of mental illness. A judge would determine whether the symptoms rose to a level that warranted a finding of incompetence to proceed pro se. The Edwards Supreme Court decision demonstrated the risk that allowing a defendant with mental illness to represent himself could lead to an unfair and humiliating spectacle of a trial. Mental health professionals must be aware of what competencies are required when conducting various types of forensic evaluations. They must also understand, and effectively convey to the court, how specific symptoms of mental illness might affect each particular type of competency.”

The prosecution did its due diligence to ensure that Woodbury was competent throughout the trial proceedings.

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