Florida Death Penalty News

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Florida Supreme Court hears Middleton appeal
February 7, 2014

OKEECHOBEE -- Florida Supreme Court justices heard oral arguments Thursday morning regarding the death-sentence appeal of convicted murderer Dale Middleton.

Middleton, 40, was convicted Aug. 6, 2012, of killing Roberta 'Bobbie' Christensen. The 12-member jury took less than 60 minutes to find him guilty of first-degree murder, armed burglary and dealing in stolen property.

On Oct. 19, 2012, then-Okeechobee Circuit Court Judge Robert Belanger ruled Middleton should be put to death.

But in his Feb. 6, 2014, address to the seven justices Public Defender Jeffrey L. Anderson cited several points as to why Middleton's sentence should be changed to life. He claimed Middleton did not go to Mrs. Christensen's home with the intent to kill her and that Judge Belanger was biased in his sentencing decision.

"He wasn't necessarily using reasoned judgement. He didn't give it a fair shot," said Mr. Anderson of the judge's sentencing.

Mr. Anderson argued that Middleton, who lived across the street from Mrs. Christensen in the Pine Ridge Mobile Home Park, did not go to her home with the intent to kill her. He was, instead, only planning to ask her to loan him some money.

He had seen Mrs. Christensen counting her tip money on July 27, 2009. Mrs. Christensen, 49, was a server at the Golden Corral Restaurant.

On July 28, 2009, Middleton walked the 139 feet from his home to hers. Even though Ms. Anderson said Middleton had no intentions of killing the woman, he did put a knife in his back pocket before he left his mobile home.

"Are you intending he walked across the street to see the lady and was then going to leave? Is that what you are intending?" asked Justice James E.C. Perry.

Mr. Anderson replied that at some point, after he had asked her to give him some money, Mrs. Christensen ordered Middleton out of her mobile home. They then began to struggle and Middleton grabbed the smaller woman, drug her to her bedroom and killed her.

When he couldn't find the cash, Middleton stole a 42-inch flat screen television Mrs. Christensen had won at a Golden Corral Christmas party. He later sold that TV for $200.

Justice Jorge Labarga didn't seem to agree with Mr. Anderson's argument that the killing wasn't premeditated.

"We're not only talking about the money, but the TV. He could have gone (back) when she wasn't there," reasoned Justice Labarga.

But, the public defender argued that taking the television wasn't part of Middleton's plan.

"He wanted money," offered Mr. Anderson.

When Justice Peggy A. Quince spoke of the killing, she didn't mince words and described it as heinous and atrocious.

"He did this because he wanted something that didn't belong to him," she said.

And Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marie Lerner didn't mince words either when she described for the justices the grisly manner in which Mrs. Christensen was killed. When Middleton entered Mrs. Christensen's home on that day "... his intent was to kill her," said Ms. Lerner.

"He was in her house the day before and could have robbed her then. But, he went back the next day," she told the justices.

She went on to address a statement by Mr. Anderson that Middleton has an IQ of 83 and that he had been doing drugs, specifically prescription pills and methamphetamine, that day.

"He played with the psychologists to get the best results because he knew he going to get the death penalty," said Ms. Lerner, of his pre-trial examinations. "He attacked her within a foot-and-a-half of the front door. The evidence showed she retreated -- she did not attack him."

She went on to say Middleton used a paring knife to kill the 5-foot-3, 130-pound, woman.

As for the trial judge being biased in his sentencing of Middleton, Ms. Lerner explained that Judge Belanger gave weight to such mitigators as his IQ and his poor childhood.

Both sides will now have to wait for the justices to render a decision.

Middleton is currently being held in the Florida State Prison in Raiford.

I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.


Florida Supreme Court overturns death penalty for man convicted in convenience store murder
Mar 27, 2014

The Florida Supreme Court has overturned the death sentence of a Jacksonville man convicted of killing a 19-year-old store clerk at his family-owned convenience store in Arlington.

Michael Mulugetta Yacob, 28, will be resentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the first-degree murder of Moussa Maida. In a ruling released Thursday, the Supreme Court said Maida's murder was not proportionate to other cases in which the death sentence has been upheld.

Prosecutors pursued the death penalty for Yacob even though the only qualifying factor that justified death was the fact that the murder had been committed during the commission of a felony, in this case, the robbery of the convenience store.

"In fact, we conclude after careful review that this case is indistinguishable from other cases involving the single aggravator of a murder during the commission of a robbery where we have vacated the death penalty," the Supreme Court said. "Accordingly, we vacate Yacob's death sentence and remand for imposition of a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole."

When sentencing Yacob to death, Circuit Judge Adrian G. Soud said death-penalty sentences are usually not upheld when there is only one qualifying factor, but he argued that the case of Yacob was different because there was a security video that showed the robbery and murder.

Maida could be heard struggling to breathe dying on the floor after being shot. That video eliminated many of the uncertainties that exist in other murder cases, Soud said.

"This is not a case of a robbery gone bad," Soud said. "This is not a case of things going out of control. This is the case of a man who made a conscious decision to end the life of a 19-year-old boy."

In the video, Yacob fired his gun after Maida had locked himself inside the cashier's booth and locked Yacob into the store with the police on their way. The murder occurred in 2008, but Yacob was wearing a mask and was not arrested until 2010 when DNA from the crime scene linked him to the crime.

For more information check back with Jacksonville.com or pick up Friday's edition of The Florida Times-Union.

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Jacksonville man gets death sentence for 2009 murder
Sat, Apr 5, 2014

Rodney Newberry was smirking as he walked into court Friday morning.

But his face was expressionless 30 minutes later after a Jacksonville judge sentenced him to death for the murder of 38-year-old Terrese Pernell Stevens in 2009.

Circuit Judge Adrian G. Soud told Newberry, 44, that his decision to murder Stevens and his previous criminal history had caused him to forfeit the right to live.

"Your open season of prowling the streets of this city is now closed," Soud said.

Newberry shot Stevens 12 times with an AK-47 while he and two other men were robbing him in the parking lot at Club Steppin' Out on Dec. 28, 2009, just north of the Springfield area of Jacksonville.

Soud said death was justified because of Newberry's criminal record. He had prior arrests for the attempted murder of two police officers and had several other felony convictions.

He was convicted in January and the jury recommended death by an 8-4 vote.

He was also sentenced to life in prison Friday for the robbery of Pernell.

Family members of Stevens said they were happy with the sentence but became overwhelmed and struggled to speak after the sentencing concluded.

"The bottom line is justice was served," said Lysa Telzer, a victims advocate with the Justice Coalition. "Judge Soud made it clear that Terrese's life mattered."

Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda cited multiple aggravating factors in arguing that the death penalty was appropriate. They included the fact that Newberry had previously been convicted of other felonies and the crime was committed during an armed robbery for pecuniary gain.

Newberry was already serving a life sentence in prison after shooting two police officers in March 2010.

The two officers, Ronald Bilyew and William Shrum, were later awarded purple hearts by Sheriff John Rutherford.

Bilyew was shot in the hand and Shrum in the foot. Bilyew fired back, wounding Newberry in the lower back.

The officers stopped Newberry for having an open container of alcohol in public, he tried to run, and when the officers tried to detain him Newberry pulled out a gun.

The officers were shot three months after Stevens was killed, a fact Soud pointed out while sentencing Newberry.

Police did not arrest Newberry for Stevens' murder until after he was convicted of the attempted murder of the police officers.

De la Rionda, who also won a conviction of Newberry in the shooting of Shrum and Bilyew, said the death penalty was made for people like him.

"I think he's a menace to society," de la Rionda said. "And I hope the death penalty is carried out quickly."

But de la Rionda conceded that was unlikely. No one from the 4th Judicial Circuit, which makes up Duval, Clay and Nassau counties, has been executed since 1993, when Michael Durocher went to the electric chair for killing and burying his girlfriend and their two young children.

Newberry will get an automatic appeal with the Florida Supreme Court. The 2nd Circuit Public Defender in Tallahassee was appointed Friday to represent him in that appeal.

Newberry is the 22nd person put on Death Row by the office of State Attorney Angela Corey since she took office in January 2009. Corey has put three times as many people on Death Row as any other prosecutor in the state during that time period.

Of the 22 sent to Death Row, 18 are still there. Four have had their sentenced or convictions overturned on appeal, but the State Attorney's Office is trying to put two of them, Michael Renard Jackson and Randall Deviney, back on Death Row.

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Judge sentences inmate who killed student to death
May 16, 2014

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- A northeast Florida judge has sentenced an escaped Louisiana inmate to death for the killing of a Florida State graduate student.

Twenty-seven-year-old Quentin Truehill was sentenced Friday. A St. Johns County jury had recommended Truehill receive the death sentence following his conviction for first-degree murder and kidnapping.

Prosecutors say Truehill escaped from the Avoyelles Parish Jail in Marksville, Louisiana, where he was serving a 40 year sentence for armed robbery and manslaughter. According to authorities, 29-year-old Vincent Binder was abducted off a street in Tallahassee while walking home to his apartment, robbed and taken against his will to St. Augustine, where he was murdered.

His body was found in an open field near Interstate 95 in April 2010, several weeks after he went missing.

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Supreme Court throws out conviction in '87 killing
June 12, 2014


The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday threw out the conviction of an Indiana man sentenced to death 25 years after a slaying that had no suspects until DNA on a cigarette butt was re-examined years after the crime.

The court ruled that the evidence against Carl Dausch wasn't sufficient to convict him of the July 1987 murder of Adrian Mobley. Dausch was placed on death row in 2012.

While he now longer faces execution in Florida, Dausch will still remain in custody until he can transferred back to Indiana, where he was serving a 60-year rape sentence before being convicted in 2011 for Mobley's murder. Dausch, 55, was sentenced for the Indiana crime in October 1990 and his earliest possible release date is October 2017.

But him not be immediately released doesn't make things better for Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino, who won the murder conviction.

"The victim's family are obviously disappointed. I'm disappointed," Magrino said. "Obviously a jury of his peers decided he was guilty of the crime and given all the facts and circumstances of the case ... he should suffer the ultimate penalty for what he did."

Mobley's body was found hogtied along a Sumter County road in July 1987. The 27-year-old was beaten to death and his car and wallet were missing. Several hours later, the car was found abandoned just off Interstate 65 north of Nashville, Tennessee. Mobley's wallet was found near the Florida-Georgia state line.

But the homicide soon became a cold case and wasn't revived again until 2002, when the Florida Department of Law Enforcement received a grant to analyze DNA from unsolved cases. DNA taken from a cigarette in Mobley's car and from anal swabs taken at the time of the murder pointed at Dausch as a suspect. Dausch's fingerprints were also found on Mobley's car and on a cigarette lighter wrapper found inside.

A witness at the time also gave the description of someone similar to Dausch leaving Mobley's abandoned car.

But Dausch said he was hitchhiking back to Indiana on Interstate 75 when he was picked up, presumably, by the real killer. Dauch's family was returning to Indiana from Flagler Beach. He left them along Interstate 10 to finish the trip on his own, according to testimony. That didn't put him anywhere Sumter County, which is 115 miles to the south.

The only DNA placing Dausch with the victim statistically could have come from 1 in 29 white men -- a much higher percentage than in other cases. And while finger and palm prints matching Dausch's were found on the rear driver's side door and roof of Mobley's car, none were found on the steering wheel, stick shift, radio or other areas near the driver's seat. Fingerprints found on Mobley's wallet didn't match Dausch's.

The court found that the evidence against Dausch wasn't strong enough to convict him of murder, and said there was some plausibility to his alibi.

"We do not take lightly the result that will flow from our decision today. We have reviewed the entire record in this case with the utmost seriousness and care. Yet, our comprehensive review of this case leaves us with the inescapable conclusion that the evidence is simply insufficient to conclude, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Dausch was the person responsible for murdering Mobley," the court wrote.

Chief Justice Ricky Polston disagreed, pointing to Dausch's attempted suicide the day before his murder trial was originally supposed to begin, as well as the jury's right to weigh DNA evidence as it saw fit.

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Paul Hildwin On Florida Death Row Years After DNA Pointed To Other Suspect

TAMPA, Fla., July 15 (Reuters) - From his cell on Florida's death row, Paul Hildwin has spent 28 years fighting for his life, waiting between cancer treatments for the state to acknowledge decade-old DNA evidence supporting his claims of innocence.

More than two weeks after the Florida Supreme Court threw out his death sentence for a 1985 murder, Hildwin remains in a cell measuring 6 by 9 feet (1.8 by 2.7 meters), one of 395 inmates on the nation's second-largest death row.

In Florida, two dozen death row inmates have been found innocent, the most in any state. But as Hildwin's fight shows, a court backlog can delay justice even when strong DNA evidence exists.

"Hildwin really is a report card that there is a serious problem in the system that took this long," said Martin McClain, his attorney. "They were hoping he would die, and it would go away."

McClain visited with Hildwin on Monday at a state prison in Raiford, in northern Florida, where he is waiting to be transferred to a local jail. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi's office said last week it would not challenge the 5-2 state Supreme Court decision ordering a new trial for Hildwin.

Prosecutors say it may take several months to decide whether to retry the case, or drop the charges.

"We are literally back to square one," said Ric Ridgway, chief assistant state attorney for Florida's Fifth Judicial Circuit Court.

Now 54, with his blood cancer in remission, Hildwin was the second death row case in a month overturned by the Florida Supreme Court.

Experts blame the backlog in addressing such appeals on the size of Florida's death row and limited resources. The state, one of a very few where juries can recommend a death sentence without a unanimous vote, adds more new death sentences each year than almost any other.

"If you are innocent, delay is bad and justice is not being served," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington.


Hildwin was arrested after forging a check from Vronzettie Cox, a 42-year-old woman found strangled in the trunk of her car hidden in the woods in west-central Florida.

Hildwin said he hitched a ride with Cox and her boyfriend several days before the body was found, but said he left them by the roadside after the two got into an argument.

He was convicted after prosecutors linked Hildwin to a pair of semen-stained underpants in her car. Using available science, prosecutors argued it could not have come from boyfriend William Haverty, the person the defense said should have been the suspect.

A 2003 DNA test proved Hildwin was not the source. But the state opposed running the evidence through a DNA database to search for another match on procedural grounds, arguing the evidence was not eligible.

"It was just a stunning instance of foot dragging," said Nina Morrison, an Innocence Project attorney representing Hildwin.

In 2011, the results matched the DNA to Haverty, who is finishing a 20-year sentence for child sex abuse. Hildwin thought his ordeal was done, his attorneys said.

Two and a half years later, he is still nervous after nearly three decades spent largely in isolation, imagining the night sky.

"It just keeps seeming to get closer, but it just keeps being out of reach," said McClain.

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Florida Supreme Court upholds death penalty in Craigslist killer case
Thu, Jan 22, 2015

The Florida Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence against a Georgia man who came to be known as the "Craigslist Killer" after he murdered a woman in Jacksonville.

David Kelsey Sparre, 23, was convicted of killing Tiara Pool in July 2010 inside her Hodges Boulevard apartment. Sparre, who lived in Waynesville, Ga., arranged to meet Pool through Craiglist while her husband was deployed at sea. He later said he killed Pool for the "rush."

"It was brutal murder," said Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda, who prosecuted Sparre. "One where the death penalty was certainly justified."

During trial de la Rionda said Sparre stabbed Pool about 90 times while killing her. De la Rionda also said Sparre tortured the victim and took pleasure in it.

Sentenced to die: Meet Duval County's Death Row inmates

Sparre arranged to meet Pool while her husband, with whom her marriage had become troubled, was deployed at sea. Pool had placed a Craiglist ad looking for male companionship while her sons were out of town with grandparents.

After Sparre answered her ad, the victim traded sexually suggestive texts with him before meeting up with him at a local hospital. He was there with his grandmother, who was having heart surgery.

According to police and prosecutors, Sparre left the hospital with Pool and had sex with her in her Hodges Boulevard apartment before killing her. He cleaned up some of the evidence before leaving and later told police he'd learned about forensic investigations from watching TV.

After killing Pool, Sparre stole her husband's PlayStation 3, and then drove Pool's car back to the hospital to be with his grandmother. Police later found Sparre by tracking his emails, text messages and phone calls.

At a death-penalty hearing prior to sentencing, Chief Assistant Public Defender Refik Eler, who defended Sparre at trial, had planned to introduce evidence that his client was mentally unbalanced and had been abusing drugs and alcohol since he was 11.

But Sparre instructed Eler not to present any evidence on his behalf. And reiterated that instruction to Circuit Judge Elizabeth Senterfitt, who ruled that Eler couldn't present the evidence against Sparre's wishes.

With no defense, and friends and family of Pool testifying for the prosecution during the hearing, the jury that convicted Sparre unanimously recommended he get death and Senterfitt complied with the recommendation.

On appeal Tallahassee Public Defender Nada Carey argued that Senterfitt abused her discretion by not considering all the evidence that would have kept Sparre off Death Row. She said it didn't matter that Sparre didn't want it brought up.

Carey said the justices should mandate that every time a death-penalty defendant refuses to present evidence in his or her own defense, a special counsel should be appointed to present mitigating evidence. But Justice Peggy Quince seemed lukewarm to the idea during oral argument in December, 2013.

"How do we honor the defendant's right to not present mitigation while urging the judge to consider all the evidence, " Quince said. "I'm not sure both can be done."

The Supreme Court has previously ruled that defendants have a right to not present evidence in their own defense. It also has ruled that trial court judges have the right to appoint special counsel when they believe it's appropriate.

But Carey told the justices there are no guidelines for when special counsel is appointed, it's up to the individual judge. And the Supreme Court needs to step in and establish guidelines because right now people are not being sent to Death Row in a fair and uniform manner.

Justice Barbara Pariente agreed that there needed to be some guidelines for when a special counsel was appointed. But she also expressed skepticism that Sparre should be resentenced.

Sparre sent a letter to the mother of his child saying he wanted to know what it was like to stab someone, and with that type of evidence justifying death, Senterfitt may have been justified in rejecting any argument for life without parole, Pariente said.

I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.


Deltona wife killer gets death penalty for Miami Subs attack
19 March 2015

SANFORD -- In what has become an increasingly rare courtroom scene, a judge Thursday handed down the death penalty to a 44-year-old man convicted of murdering his estranged wife by slashing her throat outside a Miami Subs shop near Longwood.

Dwayne Fitzgerald White, who was convicted in October of first-degree murder by a Seminole County jury, will now join 393 other inmates on Florida's death row.

Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. announced his ruling during a three-minute hearing. In a 13-page order, he focused on White's violent past and the victim's suffering.

White killed 42-year-old Sarah Rucker on Aug. 29, 2011, with what authorities believe was a pocketknife.

In his order, the judge described Rucker's death as especially cruel and wrote, "Dwayne Fitzgerald White, you have not only forfeited your right to live among us, but under the laws of the State of Florida, you have forfeited your right to live at all."

Rucker, who was a surgery technician at Florida Hospital Altamonte, had nearly a dozen slash and stab wounds to her neck. One was a 61/2-inch gash that exposed her severed windpipe and carotid artery.

Medical Examiner Marie Herrmann testified at White's trial that the killer likely needed four blows to make that wound.

The death penalty is an increasingly rare sentence. White is only the second person sent to death row from Seminole County in the past five years. The most recent was William Roger Davis III, sentenced in 2012 for abducting a 19-year-old woman from a car lot on U.S. Highway 17-92 where she worked, driving her to Orange County, then raping and strangling her.

It's been eight years since a judge in Orange or Osceola counties has imposed the death penalty.

Nationwide, figures from the Bureau of Justice Statistics show a dramatic drop in the annual number of death sentences since that penalty was reinstituted following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1976.

In 2013, the most recent year for which numbers are available, 83 defendants were given the death penalty in the United States, down from 138 in 2004, the bureau reported.

White's sentence comes less than two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up a challenge to Florida's death penalty from convicted killer Timothy Lee Hurst in the Florida Panhandle.

He was found guilty of murdering a co-worker at a Pensacola Popeye's fried chicken in 1998. His lawyers contend that Florida is violating the rights of murderers by allowing judges to impose the death penalty without a unanimous vote for the same sentence by juries.

In Hurst's case, the vote was 7 to 5 in favor of death.

In White's case, the vote for death was 8 to 4.

One of White's defense lawyers, Jeff Dowdy, chief of operations for the Office of Public Defender in Seminole County, on Thursday asked Lester to consider the Supreme Court's pending decision in the Hurst case.

"So noted," said the judge. Lester then asked Assistant State Attorney Jim Carter what sentence he wanted imposed.

Death, Carter said.

Lester turned to Dowdy and asked the same question.

Life in prison, said Dowdy.

Lester then asked White whether he had anything to say.

"No, sir," said the defendant, and the judge pronounced sentence.

Fight in front yard

A few hours before she was killed, about 2 a.m. Rucker made a series of 911 calls from her home in Deltona.

During White's trial, jurors listened to recordings of her screaming at him and telling a dispatcher that he had just thrown a bottle at her, pushed her to the ground, hit her head and pulled a cellphone from her hand. But by the time Volusia County deputies arrived, White was gone.

It was just the latest in a series of violent episodes between the two, she told a dispatcher.

Two to three hours later, two men meeting up to carpool to a job in Tampa found Rucker's body facedown outside a now-defunct Miami Subs shop at Interstate 4 at State Road 434 about 5:30 a.m.

White told Seminole County deputies that he had not seen Rucker since their argument in her front yard earlier that morning.

But investigators found two bloody handprints on the wall of the sub shop that matched White's and used cellphone signals to show that he and Rucker had been in the parking lot that morning.

At his trial White then changed his story, telling jurors that he was at the scene but that Rucker was already dead when he arrived.

Authorities never found the knife, but prosecutors say White likely used a pocketknife with a 4-inch blade.

In his sentencing order, the judge noted that White had been to prison before and had earlier been convicted of three acts of violence. In one, two decades earlier, he had hit Rucker with a wine bottle while she was pregnant. In another, White had nearly shot a former roommate, the judge wrote.

The couple had two children, now adults. Neither was in court Thursday.

I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.


Man on death row for killing parents commits suicide
May 30, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A northeast Florida man sentenced to death for fatally beating his parents with a baseball bat appears to have committed suicide.

Authorities say 41-year-old Gregory David Larkin was found dead in his Death Row cell at Florida State Prison Wednesday night. The Florida Times-Union (http://goo.gl/EbmEFo ) reports that the apparent cause of death was asphyxiation.

Authorities say Larkin attacked his mother, 73-year-old Myra A. Larkin, while she was watching a movie in April 2009. He then went to the garage, where he attacked his father, 75-year-old Richard C. Larkin Jr.

The bodies were found 8 days later. Larkin had gone to Mexico but returned to the country and was arrested at a nearby hotel.

I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.


Covington gets death penalty in 2008 triple murder
May 29, 2015


Edward Covington has been sentenced to death for the 2008 murders of his girlfriend and her two children.

Covington had pleaded guilty last year to three counts of first-degree murder, abuse of a human body and animal cruelty.

He was arrested in May 2008 after investigators said he killed his girlfriend, Lisa Frieberg, and her two children, Zachary, 7, and Heather Savannah, 2, in a Lutz mobile home.

During the penalty phase, the defense had argued that Covington had a long history of mental illness that led to the murders. However, prosecutors said Covington had been abusing cocaine for several years, and that played a role in the murders.

The death penalty sentencing was a little out of the ordinary, since usually a jury will help the judge decide on life or death. In this case, since Covington pleaded guilty, it was only the judge's decision. Covington, a former prison guard, waived his right to a jury saying he just wanted the ordeal over with.

The judge added two more death sentences for each child's murder, too.

Lisa Frieberg's mother and father quietly smiled once the judge gave his sentence.

"It's the verdict we wanted," said Barbara Freiberg. "He took the lives of our children, so it should be his life too the way we see it."

While there is a sense of closure, the Freibergs say the pain will remain forever.

"Life will go on," Barbara Freiberg said. "Lisa, Zachary, and Savannah will be remembered in our hearts and in our heads, we'll be with them once again. Hopefully not for awhile, but we'll see them again."

Covington has 30 days to appeal the sentence.

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Grinning Grim Reaper

Florida death row inmate becomes state's first to demand the electric chair

TALLAHASSEE -- For the first time in nearly two decades, a Florida prison inmate is demanding that he be put to death in the antiquated electric chair and not by a lethal injection method that has been repeatedly challenged in court.

Wayne Doty, 42, of Plant City, has been on death row since 2011 after he killed a fellow inmate. In a state where condemned inmates often wait for decades to be executed, Doty wants to die immediately, in part to attain "spiritual freedom."

"I think his goal is to get put to death as quickly as possible," said Sean Fisher, a private investigator in Gainesville who once worked for Doty. "I think he's nervous about lethal injection being found unconstitutional."

Fisher said Doty learned the reality of life in prison: "It's ten times worse than you expected and you have no hope."

Executions in Florida have been on hold for much of the past year because of lawsuits alleging that lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment and thus unconstitutional. But the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld it, and the next execution is set for next Thursday, Oct. 30.

Florida is one of eight states, mostly in the South, that have kept the electric chair as a form of capital punishment. Tennessee reinstated it last year because of challenges to lethal injections.

Florida's electric chair, cynically nicknamed "Ol' Sparky," has been idle for 16 years after a second botched execution forced the Legislature and then-Gov. Jeb Bush to change the method.

During the 1997 execution of Pedro Medina, who came to Florida from Cuba during the 1980 Mariel boatlift, a mask covering his face caught fire and filled the death chamber with smoke.  8)

At the 1999 execution of triple murderer Allen Lee "Tiny" Davis, blood appeared as 2,300 volts of electricity coursed through his 350-pound body.  8)

The state Supreme Court temporarily halted executions but later ruled in a 4 to 3 decision that electrocution was not a form of cruel and unusual punishment.

The state switched to a lethal injection of chemicals that sedate an inmate and stop the heart. But in changing the method of execution, Bush and the Legislature also gave inmates the one-time option of selecting electrocution.

Doty is the first inmate to do so.

In a handwritten affidavit, Doty wrote: "I'm invoking my right of free will to choose execution by electrocution due to confliction (sic) surrounding executions through lethal injection."

Doty initially was sentenced to life in prison for the fatal shooting of Harvey Horne II, a watchman at a Plant City manufacturing plant, during a drug robbery in 1996. He was 23.

Sentenced to life at Florida State Prison in Raiford, Doty was a "runner" who fetched meals for fellow inmates. He and another inmate murdered a fellow prisoner in 2011.

Court records state that after inmate Xavier Rodriguez insulted Doty and allegedly stole a package of cigarettes from him, Doty decided to retaliate.

He handcuffed Rodriguez with a torn bed sheet and strangled him, and doctors said Rodriguez was stabbed in the abdomen 25 times with a homemade knife that Doty had wrapped in a newspaper.

At his trial, Doty acted as his own lawyer, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to die after a jury in Bradford County recommended the death penalty by a 10-2 vote.

Gov. Rick Scott has not issued a death warrant, but Doty has waived his right to all appeals, and the Department of Corrections says his execution can be scheduled at any time.

Doty signed his affidavit on Aug. 12, soon after the Florida Supreme Court upheld his death sentence after a mandatory review of his case. He said he did not want his guilt to be challenged again.

"My decision on method of execution is a self-driven motive allowing the state of Florida to exercise their duly sworn duties to deliver my sentence in an expeditious manner," Doty wrote, "thus bringing peace to the victim's family as well as my spiritual freedom."


If the boy wants to ride the lightning...I say let him.
Vengence is mine saith the Lord...who are we to question the instruments used to carry it out?

Grinning Grim Reaper

Supreme Court overturns Florida's advisory death-penalty scheme in 8-1 decision

Posted Jan 12, 2016 09:40 am CST

By Debra Cassens Weiss

The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down Florida's death penalty sentencing scheme in which jurors make capital-punishment recommendations and judges make the final decision.

In an 8-1 decision, the Supreme Court said Florida's sentencing scheme is unconstitutional because the Sixth Amendment requires jurors, rather than judges, to find each fact necessary to impose the death sentence. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the majority opinion (PDF), and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. dissented.

The court ruled in the case of Timothy Lee Hurst, who was sentenced to death for the May 1998 murder of a Popeye's restaurant manager.

Under Florida's system, juries render an "advisory sentence" by a majority vote after an evidentiary hearing, without specifying the factual basis for their recommendation. The judge then considers aggravating and mitigating circumstances and decides whether a death sentence is warranted. The judge isn't bound by the jury's determination, but he or she must give it "great weight."

Sotomayor said the sentencing scheme is unconstitutional under the 2002 decision Ring v. Arizona, which held that capital defendants are entitled to a jury determination of aggravating circumstances making them eligible for the death penalty.

Advisory juries weren't part of the sentencing scheme strung down in Ring, but that distinction is immaterial, Sotomayor said.

"The Sixth Amendment protects a defendant's right to an impartial jury," Sotomayor wrote. "This right required Florida to base Timothy Hurst's death sentence on a jury's verdict, not a judge's fact-finding."

Alito said he would reconsider Ring v. Arizona, and if it is assumed to be correct, he would not extend it. In any event, Alito said, any error was harmless in Hurst's case because the evidence in support of the aggravating factors was "overwhelming."

Alito cited the trial judge's opinion, which said the murder was "conscienceless, pitiless, and unnecessarily torturous."


This is going to open a huge can of worms.
Vengence is mine saith the Lord...who are we to question the instruments used to carry it out?

Grinning Grim Reaper

Gov. Rick Scott signs new Florida death penalty law as legal challenges mount

 TALLAHASSEE -- Gov. Rick Scott signed Florida's new death sentencing law Monday on the eve of an effort by several inmates to have their death sentences overturned because they were sentenced under a flawed system.

 Those inmates want the Florida Supreme Court this week to reduce their death sentences to life imprisonment without parole. They include Florida's youngest Death Row inmate, the killer of a sheriff's deputy and a man who raped and murdered a suburban Tampa mother of three while she was jogging.

 Justices this week will consider the first appeals of several Death Row inmates who are arguing that their death sentences are no longer valid because the law that was in effect when they were sentenced has been declared unconstitutional. They include:

▪ Terrance Phillips, sentenced to die for the shooting deaths of two people in Jacksonville on Christmas Eve 2009 when he was 18 years old. At 24, Phillips is the youngest of 389 inmates on death row in Florida.

▪ Paul Johnson, 66, of Eagle Lake, who has been under three death sentences for the 1981 killings of a Polk County sheriff's deputy, a Winter Haven taxi driver and a Lakeland man who offered him a ride.

▪ Kenneth Jackson, 33, who abducted, raped and murdered a suburban Tampa mother of three while she jogged near her home in 2007, then placed her body in a stolen van and set it on fire.

"Florida's death penalty statutes are facially unconstitutional," Jackson's attorney argued in written pleadings. "[Jackson] must be resentenced to life imprisonment."

Capital punishment in Florida has been on hold since Jan. 12 when the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the state's sentencing system as a violation of a defendant's right to a jury trial.

 Scott signed HB 7101, which takes effect immediately. The law requires that juries in capital cases agree unanimously on the aggravating factors that Florida law requires to justify imposition of a death sentence.

 The law also requires at least 10 of 12 jurors to agree on a recommendation of death -- the same sentencing system used in one other state, Alabama.

 Florida's old law allowed a jury to recommend death by a simple majority vote, and every other state with the death penalty, except for Delaware, requires juries to be unanimous in recommending a death sentence.

 Amid the legal uncertainty over the death penalty in Florida, the state's highest court indefinitely postponed executions of two Death Row inmates, Michael Lambrix and Mark Asay.

 Scott had issued death warrants for both inmates, and he said in a statement Monday that he hoped that executions could soon resume in Florida.

"It is my solemn duty to uphold the laws of Florida and my foremost concern is always for the victims and their loved ones," Scott said in a statement. "I hope this legislation will allow families of these horrific crimes to get the closure they deserve."

Vengence is mine saith the Lord...who are we to question the instruments used to carry it out?


Mesac Damas sentenced to death for Sept. 2009 slaying of his wife and five children
Oct. 27, 2017


Mesac Damas has been sentenced to death.

After more than eight years, the sentence handed down Friday morning by Collier Circuit Judge Christine Greider -- six counts of death, one for each family member he murdered -- finally brings resolution to the most horrifying Southwest Florida murder case in recent memory; a case that shocked the region at its onset, and then repeatedly frustrated the community -- as well as the family members of the victims -- through seemingly endless delays.

"In reaching this decision, the court is mindful that, because death is a unique punishment in its finality, its application is reserved only for those cases where only the most aggravating and least mitigating circumstances exist," Greider said at the end of the 1 -hour long proceeding.

The aggravating factors proven beyond a reasonable doubt in this case outweigh the mitigating circumstances reasonably established by the evidence and warrant that the defendant, Mesac Damas, be sentenced to death. There is nothing in the defendant's background or mental state that would suggest that a death sentence is disproportionate."

it was September 2009, when Damas brutally killed his wife, Guerline Dieu Damas, 32, and the couple's five young children -- Michzach, 9, Marven, 6, Maven, 5, Megan, 3, and Morgan 1 -- slicing their throats with a filet knife inside their North Naples townhouse, bending the blade in the attacks. At the time, Collier Sheriff Kevin Rambosk called the killings "the most horrific and violent event" in county history.

Damas, now 41, fled to Haiti, where he was born and raised, but authorities soon located him.

While being transported from Haiti back to Florida, Damas confessed his guilt to the Daily News. Did you kill them? Yes, I did. Why? Only God knows.

He was driven to kill by the devil, he said. He wanted death. He wanted to be buried with his family. He expected to go to Heaven.

This focus on God and religion and spirits and demons - a tense mix of Evangelical Christianity and traditional Haitian Voodoo -- would continue throughout his time in the Collier County jail and during his court appearances. Early on he was prone to courtroom outbursts, begging to be put to death and imploring a courtroom gallery to come to Jesus. He has maintained that he was "possessed by demons" at the time of the crime.

In jail he fasted, leading to drastic weight fluctuations. He was, he said, trying to starve out the demons. He also shared his Christian faith with other inmates.

It was a lapse in faith before the killings had left him vulnerable to a demonic attack or hex, he would later tell a defense expert, a specialist in Haitian religion.

His court case was marked by fits and stops -- a trip to a state mental hospital, challenges to the state's death penalty law, and a rotating door of public defenders and judges (Greider was the fourth judge to oversee Damas' case).

Toward the end, Damas virtually shut down in court, refusing to participate in hearings or speak with his court-appointed lawyers. He wanted to represent himself in court; a request that was denied.

In early September, Greider allowed Damas to plead guilty to the six counts of first-degree murder. He waived his right to a jury. He also waived his right to have his attorneys present mitigating evidence in his favor.

On Tuesday, when Greider asked Damas if he still wanted to waive his right to mitigating evidence, he refused to speak. Instead, he wrote her a note.

"Go ahead, continue your work, may my blood be upon your shoulders."

He signed the note, "COG" -- Child of God.
I apologize for my not perfect English. Hopefully you understand what I mean. If not - ask me. I will try to explain.

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