Justices let stand sentence of death
By KRISTEN KRIDELCHARLOTTE COUNTY -- The Florida Supreme Court upheld the death sentence Thursday on a double murderer, but the ruling doesn't mean he definitely will be put to death.
James D. Ford still can pursue appeals in federal court.
Ford was sentenced to death in 1999 for brutally killing Greg and Kimberly Malnory, a local couple who were out with their toddler, in April 1997. The toddler was covered in her mother's blood.
Ford, who was convicted of two first-degree murders, the rape of the mother and of child abuse, claimed his life should be saved because his trial attorneys provided ineffective assistance, according to a Florida Supreme Court opinion.
But his argument lacked merit, the opinion states.
"It makes me terribly sad," said Paul Sullivan, one of Ford's former defense attorneys. "It makes me sad for Mr. Ford and his family. I'm sad for the families of the victims. I know they've been suffering for a long time.
"It was an awful case from every perspective."
Greg and Kimberly Malnory were found shot and bludgeoned to death at South Florida Sod Farm in a remote part of Charlotte County on April 7, 1997, according to court records. Their baby girl had been trapped inside their truck for more than 18 hours.
Ford, who worked with Greg Malnory at the farm, had made plans to go fishing with the young family a day earlier, the records state.
Ford shot Greg Malnory in the back of the head, then repeatedly beat him in his face and head with a blunt instrument, the court records state. Ford slit his throat nearly ear to ear.
Kimberly Malnory's body was found near the truck, Florida Supreme Court documents state. She had nine blunt-force injuries to her head, a gunshot through her mouth and defensive wounds on her arms. DNA tests revealed that Ford's semen was inside the woman and on her shirt.
"The single piece bathing suit that Kimberly Malnory was wearing under her shirt at the time of the killings had been sliced clean through the crotch as if with a sharp knife," an earlier Florida Supreme Court opinion states.
The Malnorys' baby, 22-month-old Maranda, had been strapped inside the vehicle with the doors open overnight, according to the documents. Mosquito bites covered most of her body.
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review Ford's first appeal in 2002.
In 2003, he filed a motion for post-conviction relief, saying his attorneys ignored objections he made.
He claimed they used voluntary intoxication as a defense, although he complained that it seemed like an admission of guilt. According to the opinion released Thursday, however, the defense was used to suggest Ford was too intoxicated to have planned out the murders.
Ford also said his attorneys coerced him into waiving his right to a speedy trial, which gave the prosecution time to build a stronger case against him, the opinion states. The Supreme Court determined that Ford's attorneys had to waive the right to provide effective assistance.
After all, "it was Ford himself who insisted on the DNA testing that necessitated continuances, arguing that it would exonerate him of the crimes," the opinion states.