Thursday, April 12, 2007

Miami killer's new trial bid rejected

Miami killer's new trial bid rejected

(AP) -- The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously ratified the conviction and death sentence of a German man convicted of killing his girlfriend nearly 20 years ago in Miami.

Dieter Riechmann was convicted in 1988 of murdering Kersten Kischnick while they were visiting from Rheinfelden, Germany, in October 1987.

Kischnick, 31, was shot while in the passenger seat of an automobile driven by Riechmann, who maintained a stranger they asked for directions killed the woman. In his latest appeal, Riechmann claimed he was a victim of improper judicial communications and prosecutors who urged witnesses to lie.

However, all seven Supreme Court justices concurred in Thursday's unsigned opinion, rejecting Riechmann's claims to vacate his conviction and sentence.

''There's nothing out there that gives the court pause with regard to the validity of the conviction,'' assistant deputy attorney general Carolyn Snurkowski said Thursday.

The lead attorney for Riechmann at last year's arguments at the high court, Martin McLain, did not immediately return a telephone call Thursday for comment from The Associated Press.

A copy of the court's decision also was sent to Michael Tarre, a Miami representative for the Federal Republic of Germany. A representative of the German consulate attended the 2006 oral arguments at the court, but did not participate.

Prosecutors said Riechmann, who is from Hamburg, Germany, had benefited financially from Kischnick working as a prostitute. However, a health problem threatened her ability to work and she was killed in order for Riechmann to collect a $1 million life insurance payment.

Authorities also said a .38-caliber weapon similar to the one used in the killing was found in Riechmann's luggage.

Riechmann, 62, had earlier appealed his death sentence saying his lawyer did not do his job during the sentencing part of the trial and failed to put witnesses on the stand who would testify about his character in an effort to keep him off death row.

Riechmann's lawyers argued that a key witness in the trial subsequently changed his story and alleged that prosecutors encouraged him to lie when he testified. They also said a former police officer alleged that prosecutors also encouraged him to lie, resulting in a pattern of misconduct.
Riechmann is imprisoned at Union Correctional Institution near Starke in northeastern Florida.

Florida has executed 64 inmates since it the death penalty was reinstated in 1979 after a 15-year hiatus. However executions were suspended in December after the state botched the lethal injection of a 55-year-old career criminal, Angel Nieves Diaz, who took 34 minutes to die and after being injected a second time.

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