Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Brevard killer wants a new trial

June 6, 2007


TALLAHASSEE -- Convicted Brevard County murderer Crosley Green wants a new trial and the state wants his death sentence upheld.

Lawyers for both were before the Supreme Court Wednesday, arguing for and against a 2005 appellate ruling that upheld Green's guilty verdict but threw out his death sentence.

A Brevard County jury convicted Green, then 32, of first-degree murder, kidnapping and robbery in the 1989 shooting death of 22-year-old Chip Flynn in a Central Florida orange grove.

Justices keyed mostly on whether Green's judge should have considered his juvenile conviction for a New York gas station robbery when he sentenced Green to death.

Assistant Attorney General Barbara Davis argued that Green's juvenile record was fair game.

"A juvenile conviction was admissible," Davis told the justices. "Crosley Green was 18 and he was convicted as an adult in an adult court."

The trial judge prominently cited Green's New York conviction when he agreed with the jury's 8-4 recommendation for the death penalty.

On Wednesday, justices wondered whether Green had a juvenile record at all.

According to court records, Green pleaded guilty when he was 18, but the court threw out his conviction, declared him a "youthful offender," sealed the record -- and sentenced him to a year in prison.

Green was eventually paroled to his native Florida.

"I have trouble understanding how you vacate the conviction and then end up incarcerating someone," said Justice Peggy Quince.

Green's attorney, Mark Gruber, said the New York judge went out of his way to tell Green about the favor he was granting.

"He told him right on the spot the significance of what he had done," Gruber said. "He said, 'you do not have a criminal record.'"

Davis countered that Florida should treat the juvenile conviction just as New York does. Judges there can take a youthful offender record into account, even though the records are sealed, she said.

"That's a gift. But if you have a second conviction, that can be used against you. It doesn't disappear," she told the justices.

Justice Barbara Pariente called the question "crucial," not only because the trial judge cited the conviction, but because the jury heard about it, too.

In his court briefs, Gruber cited witnesses who later recanted, including Green's sister, and a report about a juror who was allegedly seen making a slashing gesture to his throat, as among the reasons Green's conviction should be overturned.

Justices adjourned for the day after hearing the arguments and it is not clear when they will issue a ruling.

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