Category Archives: Death row news

The Latest From Florida’s Death Row

Florida Passes Bill to Compensate Exonerated Death Row Inmate

Justice was a long time coming, and a day late.

But it did arrive, with the eleventh-hour passage of a bill Friday that will let Florida pay James Richardson for wrongly convicting him of murder and imprisoning him for 21 years. After years of failed efforts, Richardson’s supporters persuaded the Florida Legislature to change a law that had left him in a legal limbo since 1989.

The Senate took the final step, passing the bill unanimously at 9:15 p.m., in the closing minutes of the lawmakers’ 60-day session.

New Death Sentence: Judge Gives Death Sentence to Quentin Truehill

A death sentence given for the man who kidnapped and killed an FSU grad student and dumped his body in St. Augustine.

A St. Johns County jury recommended the death sentence for Quentin Truehill in March. He was convicted in February of first degree murder and kidnapping.

Custody Still in Flux for Flagler Killer’s Daughter:

Kyla was 1 year old on Aug. 21, 2007, when her father, William Gregory, sneaked into a Flagler Beach house and killed Kyla’s 17-year-old mother, Skyler Meekins, and her 22-year-old boyfriend, Daniel Dyer. Gregory was convicted of first-degree murder in April 2011 and now sits on death row.

Kyla is now 7 and where she will spend the rest of her childhood remains unclear.

Nelson Serrano’s Lawyers Seek New Trial

Condemned mass murderer Nelson Serrano, who’s on Florida’s death row for gunning down four people at a Bartow factory in 1997, should get a new trial because recently discovered evidence has put the jury’s 2006 guilty verdict in doubt, his lawyers said Tuesday.

Florida Death Row Inmate Seeks Clemency in Last Chance Before Execution Date is Set

The case of Charles Finney, a 60-year-old man on death row in Florida, is now before the clemency authorities. He maintains that he did not commit the murder for which he was sentenced to death. In Florida, an execution date is set if and when clemency is denied.

The Florida Supreme Court unanimously upheld the conviction and death penalty sentence of a Pensacola woman convicted of beating a 19-year-old with a crowbar, shocking her with a stun gun and then setting her on fire, according to the State Attorney’s Office.

In 2012, Tina Lasonya Brown, 43, was found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Audreanna Zimmerman.

Editorial: Don’t Miss This Opportunity to Reform the Florida Death Penalty

The death penalty is likely to be with us until the U.S. Supreme Court or the Florida Legislature undergoes serious change. But whether one is an opponent of the death penalty (as the ACLU surely is) or a proponent of state executions, we should all insist that the possibility of horrible and irreversible error in Florida’s implementation of the death penalty is minimized.

 

That is the point of legislation pending in both Florida’s House and Senate — SB 334 by Sen. Thad Altman R-Melbourne, and HB 467 Rep. Jose Javier Rodriquez, D-Miami, both entitled “Sentencing in Capital Felonies.” Sadly, it does not appear that either chamber is willing to take up this issue.

Florida Judge Who Imposed Death Penalty Reflects on the Practice

It was Ulmer who presided over the murder trial of John Henry, whose death warrant was recently signed by Gov. Rick Scott and who is scheduled to be executed June 18 if doctors determine he is sane.

In Ulmer’s court, Henry was convicted of repeatedly stabbing his wife, Suzanne, in the neck while her 5-year-old son was in another room in their Zephyrhills home. Henry covered her with a rug, smoked a cigarette and then drove his stepson to a wooded area in Hillsborough County, where he stabbed the boy to death.

When it came time for sentencing, Ulmer appeared more shaken than Henry. His voice quavered as he read the declaration the state required with any death sentence.

Guest Column: Florida’s Death Penalty is Archaic

It is irrefutable folks; we kill a lot of innocent people. If that wasn’t bad enough, because of our lengthy appeals process, killing people is very expensive. It is time to bring a little more sanity to our punitive approach.

 

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The Latest From Florida’s Death Row

Jury Recommends Death Penalty for Brandon Bradley in Brevard Deputy Murder: 

The jury which convicted Brandon Bradley of murder recommended he receive the death sentence for the murder of Brevard County Deputy Barbara Pill during a traffic stop in 2012.

A judge will now decide whether to accept the recommendation, or hand down a life sentence.

The vote was 10-2, and revealed to the court after three hours of deliberations.

Read more on the case here.

Florida Supreme Court Upholds Death Sentence for Toney Davis: 

The Court ruled against Davis’s appeal of his conviction for the 1995 rape and murder of Caleasha Cunningham in Duval County. The case summary from the Florida Commission on Capital Cases is as follows:

Toney Davis lived with Gwen Cunningham from September 1992 until 12/09/92.  On 12/09/92, Gwen Cunningham left her two-year-old daughter, Caleasha, in the care of Davis while she ran an errand.  An acquaintance of Davis, Thomas Moore, arrived at the apartment around 12:45 p.m.  Davis answered the door with Caleasha draped over his arm.  Davis told Moore that Caleasha had choked on a French fry, and while Moore called 911, Davis gave Caleasha mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.  Prior to the 911 call, neighbors reported hearing thumping noises and Davis’ raised voice coming from the apartment.

Caleasha was wet, unconscious, and had blood in her mouth when she was examined at the apartment.  She was naked from the waist down, although she was fully clothed when Gwen Cunningham left the apartment.  Caleasha was revived, but later died on 12/10/92.

The emergency room doctor who examined Caleasha noticed bruising, swelling of the brain, and pools of blood in the skull, as well as injuries that suggested vaginal penetration by a penis, finger, or other object.  The cause of death was cerebral hemorrhage, caused by four blows to the head.

Caleasha’s hair bow was found in the bed and her blood was found on the sheet, pillowcase, in the bathroom, and on the crotch of Davis’ shorts and underwear.

Florida Supreme Court Upholds Death Sentence for Robert Hendrix: 

Robert Hendrix, 47, was convicted in the August 1990 murders of his cousin Elmer Scott and Scott’s wife, Michelle, in Lake County. According to the Orlando Sentinel,  Scott was killed to keep him from testifying in an upcoming armed robbery case that could have resulted in Hendrix serving life in prison. Scott’s wife was then killed because she could identify Hendrix.

Hendrix is slated for execution on April 23. His attorneys argued that he had ineffective counsel, that the trial judge was biased, and that the prosecutors committed a Brady violation by withholding evidence about an informer. However, the Court ruled that his claims were without merit, and at this time his execution is set to proceed.

 

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The Latest Death Penalty Headlines

Editor’s Note: Some readers may have noticed this blog hasn’t been updated in almost a year. Due to a variety of factors, not least of which was a simple lack of time, I took a hiatus from posting here. I’m now trying to make more time in my schedule for this project, so with any luck regular postings will be returning. Thanks for your patience and understanding.

The Tennessee Senate Has Backed a Bill to Reinstate the Electric Chair

Tennessee Senators overwhelming voted on Wednesday to reinstate the electric chair to execute capital inmates in the event that the state is unable to procure the necessary chemicals to perform lethal injections.

In a 23-3 vote, the Senate approved the Capital Punishment Enforcement Act, tabled by Sen. Ken Yager, which would provide the state’s Department of Corrections with the legal backing to kill inmates with the electric chair as an alternative, according to The Tennessean.

A similar piece of legislation has reportedly been tabled in Tennessee’s House of Representatives.

Related: The First Photograph of an Execution by Electric Chair

Now He Tells Us: John Paul Stevens Wants to Abolish the Death Penalty:

A man who consistently upheld capital convictions and the death penalty itself for over 35 years, who helped send hundreds of men and women to their deaths by failing to hold state officials accountable for constitutional violations during capital trials, who more recently endorsed dubious lethal injection standards because he did not want to buck up against court precedent, now wants the Eighth Amendment to read this way, with five new words added:

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments such as the death penalty inflicted.

 

Indiana Woman Starts Petition to get the American Pharmacist Association to Alter Code of Ethics to Ban Participation in Executions: 

“The Association could help put a stop to the manufacturing and supplying of drugs used for lethal injections,” Kauffman’s petition, which garnered more than 36,000 signatures, explains, “and help end the use of the death penalty in the U.S. once and for all.”

“I was reading an article last July about an execution that was postponed in Georgia because the Department of Corrections wouldn’t give any information to the lawyers or the judges about what execution drugs were going to be used and where they had gotten them from. The article mentioned that pharmacists, unlike other medical professionals, are not banned from participating in executions. And I remember thinking — wow, that’s surprising,” Kauffman recounted in an interview with ThinkProgress. “I happen to be opposed to the death penalty. But I’m especially opposed to the medicalization of the death penalty.”

Report Recommends 56 Changes to Ohio Death Penalty, Would Restrict Use of Law: 

Ohio should restrict the use of capital punishment charges and create a state panel to approve them, according to two of the 56 recommendations in the final report by a committee that spent more than two years studying changes to the law.

The committee proposes eliminating cases where an aggravated murder was committed during a burglary, robbery or rape, requiring solid proof of a defendant’s guilt such as DNA evidence, and banning the execution of the mentally ill, according to a draft copy of the report obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.

 

New York Times Debate: What It Means if the Death Penalty Is Dying:

Last week, lawmakers in New Hampshire heard testimony on a bill outlawing the death penalty. If passed, the law would make New Hampshire the 19th state to abolish capital punishment. The United States, the only country in the Americas to practice the death penalty last year, executed 39 people, four fewer than the year before, and Texas accounted for 41 percent of them, according to Amnesty International.

As executions become concentrated in fewer and fewer states and racial disparities continue, does the application of capital punishment make it unconstitutionally cruel and unusual?

 

Man on Texas Death Row Testifies in Court to Hurry His Execution:

A Corpus Christi man on death row for fatally shooting a five-year old boy nearly 22 years ago is one step away from getting a solid execution date.

Larry Hatten, 38, testified Thursday in the 347th District Court about his own competency before Judge Missy Medary. He was brought back from death row to testify after he sent his attorney a letter saying he did not want anymore appeals.

On Thursday, Hatten told the judge that he just didn’t want to waste anymore time.

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The Latest From Florida’s Death Row

Brevard Killer’s Appeal Rejected by Florida Supreme Court: James Phillip Barnes—who was convicted of killing two women—will remain on Florida’s death row after his latest appeal was rejected by the state’s highest court. In a decision made public today, Florida Supreme Court rejected an appeal from Barnes, who is facing lethal injection for the 1988 killing of Melbourne nurse Patricia “Patsy” Miller.

Florida Supreme Court Reverses Two Death Sentences, Citing Mental Issues: In two separate pre-Independence Day decisions, the Florida Supreme Court this week overturned the death sentences of Michael Shellito, 37, and Ralston Davis, 28, ruling in both cases that the murderers’ mental state at the time of the killings should have played a larger role in theirs sentences.

Supreme Court Denies Gregory’s Death-Penalty Appeal for 2007 Murders in Flagler BeachWilliam Gregory, 30, was sentenced to death on April 14, 2011, for the murder of his ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend as the couple slept in a house in Flagler Beach on August 21, 2007. On Thursday, a unanimous Florida Supreme Court rejected Gregory’s appeal.

Jonathan LeBaron Faces Sentencing Aug. 12 in Murder Case: Following a May 10 jury recommendation in favor of the death penalty, convicted murderer Jonathan LeBaron will face sentencing August 12 in Monroe County Circuit Court. Judge Mark Jones will pronounce sentence in a proceeding set to begin at 11:30 a.m. in Courtroom B of the Freeman Justice Center in Key West.

New Trial Ordered for Florida Death Row Inmate:  The Florida Supreme Court has ordered a new trial for a man sentenced to death for a 1996 fatal stabbing. The court unanimously upheld a lower court’s 2010 decision Thursday to grant a retrial to 51-year-old Michael Peter Fitzpatrick. Justices found that Fitzpatrick had ineffective help from his trial attorney, who should have consulted with experts on the DNA and other forensic evidence used against him.

Death Sentence Upheld for Convicted Cop-Killer Jason Wheeler: The Florida Supreme Court today upheld the conviction and death sentence for Jason Wheeler, who was convicted of killing a Lake County deputy in 2005. Wheeler was found guilty of shooting Deputy Wayne Koester, one of the deputies dispatched to his Paisley home in February 2005 for a domestic-violence complaint. Wheeler escaped arrest initially, but deputies tracked him down, shot him and paralyzed him.

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The Latest From Florida’s Death Row

Florida Death Row Inmate Seeks Eau Claire HearingConvicted murderer Bill P. Marquardt believes his convictions in Eau Claire County played a role in his Florida death sentence. The 37-year-old Marquardt, an inmate in a Florida prison, is requesting an Eau Claire County judge appoint an attorney for him and hold an evidentiary hearing at which he can present more than a dozen issues related to his January 2003 conviction on animal cruelty, burglary and firearms charges.

“These Eau Claire convictions were Florida (aggravators),” Marquardt wrote in a 30-plus-page handwritten petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed in Eau Claire County Court.

Florida Supreme Court Chooses New Clerk:  A Tallahassee lawyer with experience defending death row prisoners and expertise in court technology will become clerk of the Florida Supreme Court next November. Chief Justice Ricky Polston announced the selection of John Tomasino to succeed Clerk Thomas D. Hall, who is retiring in October after 13 years in the post.

No Death Penalty for Woman in Stepdaughter’s Killing:  The prosecution announced it is not seeking the death penalty against Misty Stoddard, who is accused of killing her 11-year-old autistic stepdaughter in December. The revelation came Tuesday during a court hearing as Stoddard, 36, pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, the latest charge against her.

Changes Coming for Florida’s Death Penalty System:  Florida is moving to a new death penalty system designed to reduce delays.

State lawmakers passed the “Timely Justice Act” last spring to create specific timeframes for appeals and legal motions. Supporters of the bill argued it made no sense to allow inmates to remain on death row for 30 years or more. Gov. Scott signed the bill, saying it would improve the orderly administration of capital punishment in Florida.

But opponents say Florida is charging ahead with executions at a time when a more careful review of the system is warranted.

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The Latest From Florida’s Death Row

Florida Court Upholds Murder Conviction Against Man Who Killed a Jacksonville Store ClerkThe Florida Supreme Court is upholding a murder conviction against a man convicted of killing a Jacksonville convenience store clerk in 1990. The court ruled there was not enough evidence to throw out the conviction against death row inmate Anthony Mungin.

 

Florida Supreme Court Suspends Former Prosecutor Over Relationship With Judge: The Florida Supreme Court suspended the law license of a former Broward prosecutor for two years as punishment for the attorney’s too-cozy relationship with a judge during a 2007 murder trial.

The decision announced Thursday came as a blow to Howard Scheinberg, a 25-year member of the Florida Bar with no previous history of disciplinary action. The Florida Bar had agreed with a referee who recommended a one-year suspension. Scheinberg appealed that recommendation, but the court came down even harder.

Scheinberg was found guilty of professional misconduct stemming from his friendship with then-Broward Circuit Judge Ana Gardiner, a relationship documented in a series of 949 cellphone calls and 471 text messages that took place while Scheinberg was trying a murder case before Gardiner.

 

Jury Recommends Death for Florida Man Who Killed Teen: Jurors have recommended death on Thursday for a Florida Panhandle man convicted of killing a teenage Georgia girl on vacation with her family. A Walton County jury voted 12-0 that Steven Cozzie, 23, should die. Circuit Judge Kelvin Wells will make the final decision sometime in the future. Cozzie was convicted last week of first-degree murder, sexual battery, aggravated child abuse and kidnapping.

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New Florida Death Sentence

Florida’s death row gained another inmate last week, as 30-year-old Kenneth Jackson was officially sentenced to death for the 2007 murder of Cuc Thu Tran.

Tran, 50, was a mother of three and was last seen on a morning jog in September 2007. According to WTSP.com, “It was the last time she was seen alive. Firefighters found her body in a burning van 15 miles away along Bullfrog Court. Detectives said Tran was stabbed to death.”

The article continues: “During the investigation, detectives got a physical description of Jackson from a witness, who said he had been talking about the murder and knew details about Tran’s death. After he agreed to DNA analysis, investigators were able to link Jackson to evidence found on Tran.”

Jackson was found guilty in November 2012. During the punishment phase of the trial, his attorneys argued that he had a troubled childhood and should be spared the death penalty.

“The evidence that’s been presented to you in this matter does not justify a death penalty,” defense attorney Charles Traina said, according to a news report from Tampa Bay Online. “This was a horrible event. No doubt about that. It should be hard for me to come to you and ask you for a life recommendation, but it isn’t. I suggest that’s because of the enormous amount of information that indicates Kenneth Jackson never really had a chance to grow up any different than he grew up.”

However, after 90 minutes of deliberation, the jury recommended a death sentence on November 2, 2012. On Wednesday, Judge William Fuente agreed with their recommendation and sentenced Jackson to die by lethal injection.

At this time, Jackson is the 406th inmate on Florida’s death row.

Related Reading:

Kenneth Jackson Sentenced to Death for 2007 Rape and Murder of Seffner Mother Cuc Thu Tran

Kenneth Ray Jackson Gets Death Penalty for 2007 Murder

Jury Recommends Death for Man Who Killed Mother of 3

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The Latest Headlines From Florida’s Death Row

Lots of headlines coming out of Florida’s death row lately. Here’s a round-up of what I’ve seen over the past few weeks but haven’t posted about.

As State Hastens Executions, Doubt Cast on Guilt of Death Row Inmate: A collection of new evidence in a little-known double-murder case may exonerate a man on Florida’s death row. The development comes at a time when Florida is moving to accelerate the pace of executions.

Catholic Bishops Ask Scott to Commute Three Death Sentences:  The pace of executions may be picking up in Florida. Governor Rick Scott has signed five death warrants so far this year, including three in the last month. That prompted the state’s Catholic bishops to write Scott, urging him to commute the three men’s sentences.

“Prudence calls for us to be careful about how we are going to carry out these death sentences”, Florida Catholic Conference Director Michael McCarron said. “I think that anytime you begin to escalate this process, you run that risk, so it needs to be done very carefully.”

Michael Putney: Death Penalty Politics in Florida: Keeping convicted murderers on Florida’s death row for an average of 13 years is much too long. But if it is the price we must pay for justice, then pay we must. The governor needs to veto the Timely Justice Act.

Riverview Man Who Killed Seminole Couple Wins Death Row Reprieve: A Riverview man won a reprieve from death row when the Florida Supreme Court ruled he had received poor legal representation during his 1998 sentencing for killing a Seminole couple during a warehouse robbery.

The court’s decision means Michael J. Griffin will have to be resentenced for the execution-style murders of Thomas and Patricia McCallops on Oct. 6, 1995. He will be able to argue that several circumstances – including a childhood brain injury, cocaine addiction, his own history of depression and his family’s history of mental illness and substance abuse – affected him enough that he should be sentenced to life in prison instead of death.

Jacksonville Killer Avoids Death Sentence For 2009 Murder: DeShawn Leon Green has avoided Death Row for a second time. But prosecutors will have one more chance to execute him. Circuit Judge James Daniel sentenced Green, 28, to life without the possibility of parole for the murder of 24-year-old Robert Kearney. The jury that convicted Green recommended he get the death penalty by a 7-5 vote, but Daniel rejected that recommendation.

Delmer Smith is Sentenced to DeathNearly four years after brutally murdering Kathleen Briles inside her Terra Ceia home, Delmer Smith learned that he will die as punishment for the crime. Judge Peter Dubensky sentenced Smith to death by lethal injection after saying that his crime of murder was among the worst of the worst. It was a sentence Kathleen Briles’ family has been waiting nearly four years to hear.

Despite facing the rest of his life on death row, Smith spoke out for the first time, still maintaining his innocence.

U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Florida Death Penalty Challenge:  The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up a case that tested the constitutionality of part of Florida’s system for imposing the death penalty. The 1991 case, Evans v. Crews, stemmed from a customary practice in Florida of judges holding hearings and making factual findings on aggravating and mitigating factors to help determine whether to impose death sentences.

A 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision, known as Ring v. Arizona, held that juries, not judges, must determine the existence of aggravating factors in death-penalty cases. As a result, a U.S. District judge in 2011 found that Florida’s death-penalty sentencing process was unconstitutional. But that ruling was overturned by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, prompting an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Florida Justices Uphold Death Sentence For Theodore Rodgers:  Florida Supreme Court justices denied an appeal from attorneys for Theodore Rodgers Jr., who was sentenced to death in 2004 for fatally shooting Florence Teresa Henderson in front of three children at Henderson’s day care on Savoy Drive.

Fla. Supreme Court To Hear Xbox Murders Appeal:  Nearly nine years after the grisly discovery of six bodies in a central Florida home, an attorney for one of the convicted murderers argued Thursday that a mistrial should have been sought in the case and that his client had been wrongly portrayed as the ringleader.

Christopher Anderson, an appellate attorney for Death Row inmate Troy Victorino, told the Florida Supreme Court that another defendant in what became known as the “Xbox murders” refused to be cross-examined while testifying during the trial. Anderson contended that Victorino’s trial attorneys improperly failed to seek a mistrial when that refusal took place.

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Two Inmate Deaths On Florida’s Death Row

Editor’s note: This story is a bit delayed, but I’ve finally returned from my travels, so posts should be more regular from this point forward.

Two Florida death row inmates have died awaiting execution, one of whom was the longest continuously serving death row inmate in the state. waiting nearly 40 years at Union Correctional Institution in Raiford.

Olen C. Gorby, 63, and Gary Alvord, 66, who has been on death row longer than any other inmate in Florida, both died this month on Florida’s death row.

Alvord arrived on the row on April 4, 1974 and remained there until he died Sunday, May 19. The Department of Corrections has not released any more details at this time, however, his attorneys say he died of a brain tumor and was also fighting lung cancer.

Alvord was arrested, convicted and tried for the 1973 murders of Georgia Tully, 53, her daughter Ann Herrman, 36, and her granddaughter Lynne Herrman, 18. All three women had been strangled and Lynne Herrman had been raped.

Alvord was sentenced to death for the crimes in 1974. Since that time, “he has survived eight presidents, nine governors and two death warrants. Since his arrival on death row, Alvord has seen 74 other inmates continue on to the execution chamber” according to the Tampa Bay Times. From the article:

So why is Gary Alvord still alive?

The simple answer is that he is crazy. For most of his life, Alvord has been plagued by delusions and disordered thoughts that doctors have most often attributed to schizophrenia and antisocial personality disorder. His condition, lawyers have argued, makes him incapable of understanding capital punishment.

Alvord’s mental illness has long plagued him, according to the story.

The son of a reportedly abusive father and a mother who suffered recurring mental breakdowns, Alvord spent much of a his childhood in institutions in his native Michigan. In 1960, at age 13, he was sent to live in a state mental hospital.

As he grew, doctors noted clear signs that the young man was disturbed. He threatened to kill doctors and other patients. He tried to escape from the hospital numerous times. After one escape, he was alleged to have been involved in a shooting. Those who knew him say he was a prolific thief.

In 1967, while on release, he kidnapped and raped a 10-year-old girl.

As he awaited trial, Alvord was hospitalized after he swallowed five spoons, a razor blade, nuts and bolts, shower attachments and empty rolled-up toothpaste tubes. He said that “voices from the spirit world” told him that the objects he swallowed would cure “cuts, cancer and other illnesses.”

Florida tried twice to execute Alvord, first in 1981 and again in 1984, but psychiatrists deemed him incapable of understanding his punishment. According to the Tampa Bay TimesAlvord was sent to a hospital in 1984 to be treated and restored to competence. “But doctors there refused to treat him, citing the ethical dilemma of making a patient well just so that he could be killed. He was quietly returned to death row in 1987 and remained there ever since. His final appeal expired in 1998.”

In the article, attorney Bill Sheppard, who represented Alvord for most of his time on the row, told Dan Sullivan:

“I would love for the state of Florida to tell us how much money they wasted trying to kill a guy they couldn’t kill. The death penalty is getting us nothing but broke.”

With Alvord’s death, Florida’s longest continuously serving death row inmate is now Douglas R. Meeks, who arrived on the row in March of 1975. There are a handful of other inmates who arrived earlier, but have not been on the row continuously, due to new trials or other legal wranglings.

While Alvord’s death received national coverage, Olen C. Gorby’s death has received little to no media attention.  Gorby is listed as deceased, or, in DOC terms, “released” on May 13, 2013.

According to case records, Gorby had a lengthy criminal record that spanned several states, but ended up on Florida’s death row for the 1990 killing of J.A. Raborn. According to the case summary:

Olen Gorby was living in a homeless shelter at the time of the crime.  The victim, J.A. Raborn, who was handicapped, picked up men from the shelter to do odd jobs around his home.

Witnesses saw Gorby with Raborn on 05/06/90 and the next day. The victim’s neighbor saw a hand-written note on the door of the home that said that the owner was out of town and would return on 05/08/90.  This note aroused the suspicions of the neighbor, and upon entering the home, she found Raborn dead of head injuries.  Raborn had been struck in the head seven times with a claw hammer.  Raborn’s car and credit cards were missing.

Gorby’s fingerprint was found on a jar in the victim’s kitchen, and at trial, a handwriting expert testified that he had written the note left on the victim’s door.  Further evidence linking Gorby to the murder was the fact that Raborn’s credit cards were used in Florida, Louisiana, and Texas.  Police found the stolen car in Texas, arrested Gorby, and extradited him to Florida.

There are no released details on Gorby’s cause of death or what will happen with his remains.

Related Reading:

Nation’s Longest Serving Death-Row Inmate Dies In Florida

A Man Too Crazy To Be Executed

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Florida Death Row Inmate’s Attorneys Says New DNA Evidence Proves He Is Innocent

A Florida inmate is back in court this week and hoping new evidence will prove him innocent and free him from death row.

Thirty-three-year-old Clemente Javier “Shorty” Aguirre was sentenced to death in 2006 for the murders of his neighbors, Cheryl A. Williams and her wheelchair-bound mother Carol Bareis. According to attorneys for The Innocence Project there is new DNA evidence that suggests Aguirre is innocent, and they are presenting it in a two-week evidentiary hearing before asking Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler to vacate Aguirre’s conviction.

From the Orlando Sentinel

The new hearing will focus on two things: new DNA found at the murder scene and 30-year-old Samantha Lee Williams — Williams’ daughter and Bareis’ granddaughter. She lived in the mobile home with them but had spent the night they were killed with her boyfriend.

There was an enormous amount of blood at the murder scene. After Aguirre’s conviction and with the help of the Innocence Project, a New York-based nonprofit that works to exonerate the wrongfully convicted, defense attorneys hired scientists to test more of it.

They’re expected to testify that they’ve found eight drops of Samantha Williams’ blood at the house but none from Aguirre.

They’re also expected to testify that the blood found on Aguirre’s clothes all consisted of “contact” stains, those that happen when someone touches something already bloody — not spatter stains, the kind caused by a blow.

Defense attorneys also are expected to offer evidence about Samantha Williams’ long record of mental illness…..Defense attorneys also are expected to present evidence that Samantha and her mother, the victim with 129 stab wounds, had an argument the night the women were killed.

If Judge Recksiedler rules in favor of vacating and throws out the sentence, Aguirre will receive a new trial.

Much more on the story here:

Altamonte Springs Cook Sent to Death Row Hopes New DNA Clears Him

Innocence Project Press Release: New DNA Testing Reveals Florida Death Row Inmate’s Innocence

Death Row Inmate Back in Seminole County Courtroom, Asking Judge to Throw Out Convictions

 

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