Published April 5, 2014 by Florida Today
Brandon Bradley wiped tears away from his teardrop tattoos as his oldest half brother described their abusive childhood.
It was the first time Bradley visibly expressed any emotion in public. He was stone-faced through weeks of jury selection, the trial in which he was convicted of killing Brevard County Sheriff’s Deputy Barbara Pill, and during the first few days of a penalty phase to determine if he should get a death sentence. Judge Morgan Reinman has told the jury that Bradley is taking medication for a mental or emotional condition.
On Friday, Anthony and Keith Nelson — who have the same mother as Bradley, but a different father — said their stepfather beat the three boys. For much of Anthony Nelson’s testimony, Bradley wept openly and silently, wiping his face with a brown paper towel. Juror 108 also cried.
Anthony Nelson also recalled how the death of a cousin affected Bradley.
“I remember the night it happened, I held him for an hour straight, in the middle of the street, crying like a little baby,” he testified.
The brothers described how their stepfather would make them cut palmetto fronds, then whip the boys with the fronds. Sometimes he hit them for no reason, and it was worse when he was drunk. Keith Nelson said he would sometimes hit them “until he got tired.”
Bradley was released from jail about six months before Pill’s death by pretending to be Nelson and posting bond.
“I think they didn’t do their jobs,” Nelson told FLORIDA TODAY about that oversight. He feels Bradley took someone’s life, and there are consequences, but he’d prefer if Bradley got a lifetime prison sentence instead of the death penalty.
A woman who said she dated Bradley and was once pregnant with his child testified that she urged him to turn himself in on warrants for violating his probation. Carrie Ellison said that he told her would turn himself in when he was ready, and would go with police if he was arrested.
“He never ever said he would ever hurt a police officer,” she said.
She said she had a miscarriage at about the time Bradley’s cousin was killed and that he changed — he became more paranoid, he carried a gun.
Judge Reinman didn’t allow the defense to call a person they described as an expert on prison life. But for the purpose of an appeal, outside the presence of the jury, they were allowed to ask Ron McAndrew about what he would say if called to testify.
McAndrew described death row as a marginally more comfortable place than the prison environment where Bradley would be for a life sentence. He said Bradley would be hated by guards for being a convicted cop-killer.
Defense Attorney Randy Moore had Bradley stand up next to a significantly taller attorney. Bradley is 5-foot-8 and weighs about 150 pounds, according to a prison record from 2010.
“In open population, he would have difficulty maintaining any kind of personal property, it would be taken away from him,” McAndrew said. “He would have difficulties protecting himself from sexual predators. He would have a difficult time having anyone who would support him or defend him on the compound, be it other offenders or uniformed staff.”
Whereas on death row, he would have a private cell, maybe a television, an hour a day to be outdoors.