Tag Archives: Rick Scott

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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Stay of Execution Lifted for Marshall Gore

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

UPDATE: A new execution date has been set for Marshall Gore. He is now set for execution on July 10, 2013 at 6 p.m. 

According to Miami Herald reporter David Ovalle, the stay of execution for Marshall Gore, whose execution was halted Monday night, has been lifted and a new date will soon be set. (Update: here’s a link to the Herald story that’s now published.)

Gore, who received two death sentences for the 1988 killings of Susan Roark and Robyn Novick, was only an hour away from execution when a federal appeals court temporarily stayed the lethal injection.

The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals stopped the execution in order to hear arguments from Gore’s attorneys that he is insane, and therefore ineligible for execution. However, the court wanted to move quickly so they could come to a decision before the death warrant, signed in May, could expire.

Oral arguments were held today and Gore’s appeal was subsequently denied. Because the warrant is still active, a new execution date will likely be set quite soon.

Related Reading: 

Federal Court Halts Execution of Miami Killer Marshall Lee Gore

Execution of Marshall Lee Gore Set to Move Forward As Planned

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Florida’s Timely Justice Act Challenged in State Supreme Court

Attorneys for a group of Florida’s death row inmates have filed a challenge to the newly passed Timely Justice Act, which would speed executions in Florida. (Yours truly has not yet been able to blog about the law at this point, but you can find a wealth of articles about it, like this one from Slate and this one from The Miami Herald.)

The Palm Beach Post has an article detailing the challenge which I’ve pasted below. You can also read the original here as well as an Associated Press story on the suit here.

By Dara Kam

Palm Beach Post Capital Bureau

TALLAHASSEE — Attorneys representing Death Row inmates have filed a challenge to a law aimed at speeding up executions, saying the “Timely Justice Act” is an unconstitutional power grab by the Legislature and violates convicts’ constitutional rights to due process and equal protection.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday with the Florida Supreme Court is led by two lawyers — Neal Dupree, capital collateral regional counsel south; and Bill Jennings, capital collateral regional counsel middle. They lead the state agencies that represent Death Row inmates in postconviction proceedings in their respective Florida districts.

Dozens of lawyers and more than 150 inmates awaiting execution joined the suit against Attorney General Pam Bondi and the state of Florida.

The suit was filed less than two weeks after Gov. Rick Scott signed the measure into law. “We will defend it,” Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said in an email.

Scott’s office has launched a public-relations campaign disputing reports that the new law abbreviates judicial rights, insisting instead that the law “makes technical amendments to current law and provides clarity and transparency to legal proceedings.”

Florida has 405 inmates on Death Row. The average length of time between conviction and execution is more than two decades.

The new law, which takes effect July 1, requires the Florida Supreme Court to certify to the governor when a Death Row inmate’s appeals have been exhausted. The governor will have 30 days to sign a death warrant once the capital clemency process is complete.

The law also creates time limits for production of public records in postconviction cases and imposes penalties on defense lawyers deemed ineffective.

Dupree and Jennings asked the Florida Supreme Court to issue an emergency injunction blocking the law, warning it will create a “flood of death warrants that will inundate the courts” and diminish the court’s review of capital cases. They also requested that the court hear oral arguments in the case.

If the law is not halted, “the process will have the unconstitutional and irreversible result of individuals being executed under a legislatively determined judicial procedure in which violations of their constitutional rights go unresolved,” the lawyers wrote in an 89-page filing. “Further, Florida history shows that diminished process can have tragic and irreversible consequences.”

The request for an injunction also includes a lengthy examination of efforts by the Supreme Court, the Legislature and previous governors to come up a more expedited yet fair death penalty procedure.

That process “cannot and should not be displaced by a lawmaking process based on political, rather than constitutional and equitable, concerns,” wrote Dupree and Jennings, joined by Martin McClain, who has represented numerous Death Row inmates, including some who have been exonerated.

The lawyers rely on many of the same arguments used by the Supreme Court when it struck down the 2000 Death Penalty Reform Act, the Legislature’s last attempt to speed up executions. The 200 law imposed time limits on appeals and created a two-tiered system for direct appeals and collateral proceedings.

In much the same way, the new law imposes time lines for appeals, thereby taking away the court’s power to establish its own rules, the lawyers argued.

Among the top concerns with the new law are limits on appeals that can be made once a warrant is signed. Only 19 of the 75 prisoners executed in Florida since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976 were put to death after their first warrant, the lawyers wrote.

According to Scott’s office, 13 Death Row inmates would fit the criteria under the new law to have a death warrant signed.

The lawsuit is a rehashing of the “same spurious arguments that have turned our death penalty into a mockery in Florida,” said state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, the bill’s sponsor.

“Their stated role is to not have anyone executed on their watch. They oppose the death penalty in every case and use all legal filings necessary to delay the inevitable. And that’s exactly what this legislation was designed to put a stop to,” he said.

Negron said he is confident the court will uphold the law.

But lawyers for the condemned argued in the brief that the new process lacks an understanding of the complexities of the process and imposes restrictions on federal appeals.

The Legislature “has made profoundly critical decisions determining what judicial vehicles are available to capital defendants prior to the State taking the ultimate punitive act of terminating their lives, yet it seems the Legislature does not have an understanding of those vehicles and their names. Unless, that is, we must presume that the Legislature intended to cut off U.S. Supreme Court review of Florida death cases, which would present concerns of federalism, constitutionality and fairness beyond those addressed herein,” the lawyers wrote.



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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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Florida Executes William Van Poyck

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. 

William Van Poyck’s is one of two executions scheduled for tonight. There is another scheduled in Texas, which you can read about here.

Update: The U.S. Supreme Court has denied a stay of execution for Van Poyck, and at this time it appears the execution will proceed as planned.

Update: William Van Poyck has been executed.

The case of William Van Poyck has been a bizarre one lately, filled with criticism, concern and bizarre court rulings. However, it appears the execution, scheduled for 7 p.m. this evening, is moving forward as planned after much legal back and forth, the execution took place as planned at 7 p.m. this evening.

Van Poyck, 58, was convicted in the death of corrections officer Fred Griffis, who was fatally shot in a 1987 escape attempt. Van Poyck and another inmate, Frank Valdez, ambushed two guards in a prison van during transport of another prisoner, James O’Brien, who they were trying to free. Van Poyck has always maintained that Valdez, who was later stomped to death by prison guards, was the shooter. From the Palm Beach Post:

Van Poyck has insisted that Valdes, who he said was hopped up on cocaine and beer, parted from the script he devised and shot Griffis. In unsuccessful appeals, Van Poyck argued that another inmate heard Valdes confess to the killing before Valdes himself was killed by prison guards in 1999. In another appeal, Van Poyck claimed four jurors signed affidavits claiming they wouldn’t have voted to give him the death penalty had the prosecution not said he was the triggerman.

But in Florida you don’t have to be the killer to get the death penalty; just being present at a murder is enough, and the Florida Supreme Court ruled that he would have received the death penalty even if it was proven that he was not the triggerman.

While many of his appeals had asked for a stay based on his claims of not being the shooter, the main sticking point in the recent legal haranguing in the case centered on whether his attorneys were capable of defending him effectively and thoroughly.

When Van Poyck’s death warrant was signed in early May, he had two private attorneys who have been representing him pro bono for years. One was Gerald Bettman, who runs a two-man law office in Jacksonville and has represented Van Poyck since around 1995. The other was Milwaukee-based Jeff Davis, who is not a criminal defense attorney and was out of the country when the warrant was signed. Both men said they were unable to represent Van Poyck effectively, and Bettman filed a motion asking that they be taken off the case, saying he has never had to represent someone during the numerous, and critical, appeals that are filed after a warrant is signed.

“I’ve got to figure all this out and I don’t even know the routes,” he told the Palm Beach Post.

The two asked instead that the court appoint attorneys from the Capital Collateral Commission or a private death penalty attorney to represent Van Poyck.

“Even in the event that (I) desired to represent Van Poyck, the death warrant was issued at a time wherein (I am) unable to provide the necessary time and expense on his behalf without incurring extreme hardship,” Bettman wrote.

But Palm Beach County Judge Barry Cohen, who signed on behalf of Circuit Judge Charles Burton, ruled on May 7 that Bettman had waited too long to file the motion and passed the buck on to the higher court. From the Post:

“This is not an unanticipated event,” Burton said of Gerald Bettman’s claims that he represented Van Poyck as a favor and never imagined he would be forced to handle his appeals under the strict deadlines that are set after a death warrant is signed.

“Before you execute someone you have to appoint a lawyer who is competent,” Bettman replied.

But, Burton said, the matter is out of his hands. “Any beef you have is with the Florida Supreme Court, not me,” he said.

However the Florida Supreme Court also rejected Bettman’s motion to withdraw as counsel. The justices gave no reason, but the ruling was a surprise to some death penalty experts. From the Post:

Other attorneys who specialize in death penalty cases called Bettman’s predicament unprecedented. “It’s shocking to me that they’re going to force an attorney who is unqualified to handle the appeals,” said Martin McClain, one of the state’s top death penalty defense attorneys.

The high court, he said, is ignoring its own rulings. In 1990, it granted a stay of execution for Paul Scott, who is on Death Row for the 1978 bludgeoning death of Boca Raton florist James Alessi. It allowed Scott’s volunteer lawyer to withdraw from the case and agreed a new court-appointed lawyer needed more time to prepare Scott’s appeals.

And then things got even more bizarre.

In a surprising turn of events, the Florida Supreme Court reversed its decision, ruling that Bettman alone shouldn’t have to represent Van Poyck in the post-warrant appeals. Instead, they sent the case back to Judge Burton, and essentially ruled that all 14 lawyers who had ever filed appeals for Van Poyck were still his attorneys. They ordered Burton to review the qualifications of all 14 and decide who was the most qualified to be his counsel.

“I’m a little surprised by the turn of events,” McClain told the Post after learning he could be part of Van Poyck’s defense team. “On one hand, there seems to be a recognition that there’s a problem with the case, but I’m not sure casting a wide net will solve it.”

The article continues:

He [McClain] suspects some of the attorneys, like him, know little about the case. He said he was involved tangentially in a 2007 appeal that was handled primarily by out-of-state lawyers.

The high court’s wide-ranging order violates its own rulings, he said.

In similar cases, it allowed volunteer lawyers such as like Bettman to withdraw after a death warrant was signed. State-funded death penalty lawyers were then appointed to handle the appeals. Lawyers who represented Van Poyck, 58, for free have no obligation to remain on the case, he said.

“They are trying to create an obligation that should offend every defense lawyer in the state. It flies in the face of public policy to encourage pro bono work,” he said. What lawyer, he asked, would volunteer to help out the state by representing a Death Row inmate for free if they are faced with the prospect of handling the flurry of appeals after a death warrant is signed?

McClain has a point. The ruling seems to suggest any attorney who files any appeal for a death row inmate could possibly be pulled back in later to represent them during one of the most critical phases, regardless of experience or familiarity with the case.

But back to the ruling: Judge Burton was ordered to hold a hearing reviewing the 14 attorneys and at the end of the two-hour proceeding on May 13, he appointed not one, but three lawyers to counsel Van Poyck, despite all three of them protesting that they were unable to do so. Burton kept Van Poyck’s original attorneys, Bettman and Davis, on the case, and added the help of  Tallahassee attorney Mark Olive. The three men had a deadline of the following Friday, four days after the ruling, to file motions that could spare their client.

Olive, who is one of the state’s top death penalty attorneys, said he had the legal know-how to serve as counsel, but knew almost nothing about the case and wouldn’t be able to get up to speed in such a short time.

Currently, none of the attorneys’ subsequent appeals have succeeded, but there are still filings that are pending. On Wednesday, June 6, Mark Olive filed a renewed motion for a stay, citing the following issues:

1. A motion for a stay that was filed on May 24 has not been ruled upon

2. Newly discovered evidence of Frank Valdez confessing that Van Poyck’s attorneys need time to investigate

3. A ruling on May 23 in 11th Circuit Public Defender v. State of Florida on defense attorney ethics should prohibit his representing Van Poyck.

No opinions have been released so far on these motions But on Wednesday he U.S. Supreme Court denied a stay of execution and the execution moved forward at 7 p.m. local time at Florida State Prison in Starke. The execution was originally scheduled for 6 p.m. but was delayed to allow Governor Rick Scott enough time to return to Tallahassee from a funeral in Illinois.

According to the Sun Sentinel, Van Poyck was served a breakfast of oatmeal and eggs at 5 a.m., in what was his first warm breakfast in years. All inmates are allowed to request a last meal that’s served at 10 a.m. but Van Poyck declined one. He spent his last day visiting with his sister, four female friends and his spiritual adviser. More from the article:

Van Poyck also refused the normal course of chemicals, which begins with a sedative, Lisa Van Poyck said. She said he would only be given highly concentrated potassium chloride to stop his heart.

“He wants to be clear of mind,” she said. “He wants to be focused on one thing.”

In three hours visiting with friends and family, Van Poyck didn’t say what that one thing would be.

But if she had to guess, his sister said, it would probably be his parents, the idea of love and his favorite color, purple.

Van Poyck was declared dead at 7:24 p.m., 23 minutes after the procedure began.

He was the 77th person executed in Florida since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. According to the Palm Beach Post, “Van Poyck is the fourth inmate to be executed since December, the most that have been executed in such short order since 2006.”

Related Reading: 

Dispatches From Death Row: William Van Poyck

“I Have 21 Days Left To Live”: Counting Down To An Execution

Lawyers ordered to defend Van Poyck in death-sentence appeal say they lack time, resources

‘They’re going to kill him,’ attorney for condemned killer says as judge refuses to delay execution

Attorneys for death row inmate who killed local prison guard want off the case

Lawyer with little experience can’t withdraw at 11th hour from death-penalty defense, judge says

Attorney told by local judge, state supreme court he must represent death row inmate

High court reverses ruling on Palm Beach County Death Row case lawyers

Van Poyck: FL’s Bizarre Death Penalty Farce Continues

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Florida Death Row Exonerees to Attend Vigil At Tonight’s Execution

Tonight as Florida moves to execute William Van Poyck, two men who faced execution themselves will be protesting outside the prison walls.

Florida exonerees Seth Penalver, who was exonerated just six months ago, and Herman Lindsey, who was exonerated in 2009, will attend a vigil held outside Florida State Prison in Starke, to protest both the execution and the Timely Justice Act, which would increase the rate of executions in Florida.

In a press release about the vigil from Witness to Innocence, Lindsey says, “executing people and speeding up executions when 24 innocent people, so far, have been exonerated, is just plain wrong. How many more innocent people are still on Florida’s death row?”

The two men will join members of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty in standing across the street from the prison, where they usually hold signs, sing hymns and pray up until the time of execution.

Penalver, who is the most recent death row exoneree in the nation, said in the release, “It’s a sad day in Florida when we are executing people when other states are ending executions and abolishing the death penalty. The Governor refuses to give me five minutes to meet with him after the state of Florida spent 18 years punishing me and sentencing me to death for a crime I did not commit. I want to tell him my story and ask him to veto the Timely Justice Act, which will increase the risk of executing innocent people.”

Related Reading: 

Florida Set to Execute William Van Poyck Tonight

“I Have 21 Days Left To Live”: Counting Down To An Execution

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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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Florida Executions Speeding Up As Gov. Scott Signs Another Death Warrant

Just 10 days after signing his fourth death warrant of 2013, Gov. Scott has used the stroke of his pen to send another Florida inmate on his way to the execution chamber.

The governor’s office reported today that Scott has signed death warrant for 49-year-old Marshall Lee Gore, whose execution is schedule for June 24. Gore was given two death sentences for the 1988 killings of Susan Roark and Robyn Novick.

According to court documents, in March 1988 police found the body of a white female covered with a blue tarp in Miami-Dade County. Dental records were used to identify the body as Robyn Novick. Witnesses testified that five days earlier they saw Novick get into a yellow Corvette and leave a bar in the company of a man who was later identified in photos as Marshall Gore. The Florida Capital Case Commission’s summary goes on to detail how Gore was also seen driving what appeared to be Novick’s car:

On the morning of 03/12/88, Gore came to the house of David Restrepo, driving a yellow Corvette with “Robyn N” on the license plate.  Restrepo was told by Gore that his girlfriend had loaned him the car.  Gore and Restrepo then drove to a strip club, and Gore explained that he wanted to change his name to Robyn.  The two then went to a convenience store, but after leaving the store, Gore lost control of the vehicle, which flipped several times and came to a rest with two flat tires.  Gore and Restrepo abandoned the wrecked car.  Police found the abandoned car and discovered credit cards, a driver license, and cigarette case, all belonging to Robyn Novick.

A month later the skeletonized remains of Susan Roark were found in Columbia County. Roark was last seen alive in Cleveland, Tennessee when the two struck up a conversation and drove away in Roark’s car. Gore later arrived in Tampa driving Roark’s car and convinced a friend to help him pawn several of Roark’s things.

Gore was sentenced to death in the Roark case in 1990 and then again in the Novick case in 1995. In a piece for The Miami Herald, David Ovalle writes that “Gore’s 1995 trial in Miami was marked by disruptive behavior. He cursed, laughed and howled during the trial, angering the victim’s family and frustrating his own lawyer.”

The prosecutor in the case showed some disruptive behavior as well, and in 1998 the Florida Supreme Court overturned Gore’s conviction. More from Ovalle:

The Florida Supreme Court, in 1998, overturned the conviction after ruling that the prosecutor on the case “exceeded the proper conduct and professionalism” in taunting Gore and telling a jury “he deserves to die.”

Gore received a new trial a year later and was again sentenced to death.

Gore also has been handed numerous other sentences, including a life sentence for the attempted murder of Tina Coralis in 1988. According to The Associated Press, “two days after killing Novick, Gore attacked Coralis. After beating, raping and stabbing her, Gore left Coralis her for dead on the side of the road near the scene where Novick’s body was found earlier.”

Scott’s death warrant only refers to the death of Novick. He is scheduled to receive a lethal injection at 6 p.m. ET June 24 at Florida State Prison in Starke.

Upcoming Florida Executions:

Elmer Carroll, May 28

William Van Poyck, June 12

Marshall Lee Gore, June 24

Related Reading:

Miami-Dade killer Marshall Lee Gore To Be Executed Next Month, Gov. Rick Scott’s Office Says

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Gov. Scott Signs Death Warrant for Florida Inmate William Van Poyck

As a much-criticized bill to speed up Florida’s executions sits on the governor’s desk awaiting his signature, Rick Scott has signed another death warrant, in a move that is perhaps indicative of his decision on the measure.

Scott has signed a death warrant for 58-year-old William Van Poyck, who was convicted in the death of corrections officer Fred Griffis in 1987.

According to the case summary from the Florida Commission on Capital Cases:

On 06/24/87, during the transport of a state prisoner named James O’Brien, Van Poyck and an accomplice, Frank Valdez, ambushed the two guards in the prison van, assaulted them, and fired three shots, one to the head and two to the chest, into one of the guards, killing him instantly. In an attempt to free O’Brien from the van, Van Poyck fired numerous shots at the padlock of the van door, with one ricocheting and striking the other guard.

Van Poyck and Valdez then fled the scene in a Cadillac, and a chase with police ensued.  During the chase, Van Poyck fired numerous shots at the pursuing police cars, striking three of them.

Eventually, Valdez lost control of the car and it struck a tree.  The two were arrested and four pistols were recovered from the car, including the service revolver of the guard that was killed.

According to the Associated Press, “Van Poyck has taken responsibility for the slaying but denied he was the triggerman.”

Van Poyck has a blog that is maintained by his sister, who posts his letters to her there. His writing often details the conditions on the row, which I’ve reposted on this blog several times, specifically in the case of Tom Wyatt, who I posted about here, here and here.

Van Poyck is scheduled to die by lethal injection on June 12 at 6 p.m. ET, at Florida State Prison. From The Associated Press:


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Gov. Rick Scott Signs Death Warrant for Elmer Carroll

I’m on the road with spotty internet, so more details will come on this post soon, but for now, here’s a quick summary on the latest death warrant signed in Florida, this one for Elmer Leon Carroll.

According to the case summary, Carroll was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of 10-year-old Christine McGowan. From the summary:

“Robert Rank attempted to wake his stepdaughter, Christine McGowan, on the morning of 10/30/90 and, when she did not answer his calls, Rank went to McGowan’s room.  He noticed her door, which was open the night before, was closed.  Upon entering the room, Rank discovered McGowan face down on the bed.  She had blood between her legs and her body was cold to the touch.  Rank then noticed that the front door was slightly open and his construction truck was missing.  Police investigators at the scene determined that McGowan had been raped and strangled to death, and issued a bulletin regarding the stolen construction truck.

Upon hearing a radio bulletin regarding the stolen construction truck, Debbie Hyatt notified police that she remembered seeing the abandoned truck and a man, later identified as Elmer Carroll, walking easterly away from the truck.  As a result of Hyatt’s tip, Carroll was arrested.  When law enforcement officers searched Carroll for weapons, they found a box cutter and the keys to the stolen construction truck.

Information presented at trial revealed that Carroll was a resident of the halfway house located next door to the victim’s home and that Carroll had remarked to other residents about the “cute” girl next door.  DNA evidence recovered from the scene matched Carroll’s saliva, semen and pubic hair.”

Carroll, 56, is scheduled to die by lethal injection on May 28 at 6 p.m. ET at Florida State Prison in Starke.

Related Reading:

Governor signs death warrant for Apopka girl’s killer

Elmer Leon Carroll execution: Florida man to die by lethal injection for Christine McGowan murder

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