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- Eric Scott Branch
- Criminal, Killer, murderer
- Set cemetery
Eric Scott Branch (February 7, 1971 – February 22, 2018) was an Indiana man sentenced to death in Florida for the 1993 rape and murder of University of West Florida student Susan Morris.
Branch had been erroneously released from a correctional facility in November 1992 after his conviction for the sexual battery of a 14-year-old girl in Indiana, two months before he killed Morris.
He was executed at 6pm EST on February 22, 2018 at the death chamber within Florida State Prison near Raiford, Florida. His execution was also scheduled to coincide with that of Thomas 'Bart' Whitaker, a Texas man convicted of contracting the 2003 murders of his brother and mother.
He was pronounced dead at 7:05 PM in the death chamber from lethal injection.
First Judicial Circuit, Escambia County, Case #93-870 CF
Sentencing Judge: The Honorable Edward Nickinson
Trial Attorney: John L. Allbritton – Private
Attorney, Direct Appeal: David Davis – Assistant Public Defender
Attorney, Collateral Appeals: Michael Reiter – Registry
Date of Offense: 01/11/93
Date of Sentence: 05/03/94
Circumstances of Offense:
Eric Scott Branch was convicted and sentenced to death for the sexual battery and murder of Susan Morris on 01/11/93.
In order to evade Indiana police authorities, Branch planned to abandon his vehicle and steal a car from the University of West Florida. On 01/11/93, Branch attacked Morris in the university parking lot, and stole her red Toyota. Morris’ beaten body was discovered not far away, in a wooded area. Morris was found nude, with many injuries characteristic of a severe beating and a wooden stick was found broken off in her vagina.
The defendant was arrested in Indiana a few days after the murder.
On 11/18/94, Branch was sentenced to 30 years for an additional sexual battery charge in Florida. This incident, however, occurred prior to the murder for which Branch was sentenced to death.
Branch was also convicted of sexual battery in the state of Indiana.
02/23/93 Defendant indicted on:
Count I: First-Degree Murder
Count II: Sexual Battery
Count III: Grand Theft Auto
03/10/94 The jury found the defendant guilty on all counts.
03/11/94 Upon advisory sentencing, the jury, by a 10 to 2 majority, voted for the death penalty.
05/03/94 The defendant was sentenced as followed:
Count I: First-Degree Murder - Death
Count II: Sexual Battery – Life in Prison
Count III: Grand Theft Auto – Five years
Branch filed his Direct Appeal in the Florida Supreme Court on 06/06/94. In that appeal, he contended that the trial court erred in failing to grant him a continuance, and in failing to adequately examine his claim of incompetent counsel. Branch also argued the court’s failure to give special jury instructions and the presentation of victim impact evidence. The Florida Supreme Court affirmed the convictions and sentence of death on 11/21/96 and the mandate was issued on 02/07/97.
Branch filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari in the United States Supreme Court on 03/24/97 that was denied on 05/12/97.
Branch next filed a 3.850 Motion in the State Circuit Court on 05/07/98 and amended the motion on 04/01/03 and 10/10/03. On 12/30/04, the Circuit Court denied the motion.
Branch filed a 3.850 Motion Appeal with the Florida Supreme Court on 03/09/05, raising the following issues: ineffective assistance of counsel at the guilt and penalty phases and using an Indiana conviction to establish the prior violent felony aggravator. On 08/31/06, the FSC affirmed the denial of the motion.
Branch filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus with the Florida Supreme Court on 08/31/05, raising the issue of ineffective assistance of counsel. On 08/31/06, the FSC denied the petition.
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