Tuesday, July 24, 2007
By David Angier News Herald Writer 747-5077 / email@example.com
Defense attorney Mike Stone told Circuit Judge Judy Pittman on Monday that the legal system was designed so that everyone could “point somewhere else” as to who’s responsible for the death penalty.
Stone said the 11 jurors who recommended a death sentence in Roderick Michael Orme’s case could be comforted by the fact that it was only a recommendation. The judge, he said, who is required to follow the recommendation, could blame the jury.
Stone never mentioned his client, but Pittman did.
Pittman said Orme “brutally beat, raped and murdered” Lisa Redd on March 3, 1992, when Redd, a Bay Medical Center nurse and Orme’s former girlfriend, answered his call for aid during a drug binge. Redd came to Orme’s motel room and determined that Orme needed help after ingesting crack cocaine and alcohol all day.
“When the victim threw the defendant’s unused cocaine in the toilet, he became angry,” Pittman said. “He beat, raped and murdered her. This act of kindness on her part became a fatal mistake.”
The judge found the murder to be especially heinous, atrocious or cruel, a legal aggravator used to justify the death penalty.
“This was not an instantaneous or painless death,” Pittman said.
She also found that the state had proven beyond a reasonable doubt two other legal factors: that the murder happened during a rape and was done for financial gain. Pittman said Orme stole Redd’s car, money and jewelry after the murder and bought more drugs.
She said any one of these aggravators outweighed all nine of the mitigating circumstances the defense brought out in the May retrial of the penalty phase in this case. The Florida Supreme Court overturned Orme’s 1993 death sentence, but upheld his conviction, in 2005 and sent him back to Bay County for a new penalty phase trial.
The justices said the 7-5 vote for death in 1993 could have been different if jurors knew of Orme’s “bipolar disorder.” The high court returned the case with instructions that more evidence of Orme’s mental health should be presented to jurors.
Pittman said after hearing all the evidence she didn’t believe that Orme has bipolar disorder. She said Orme’s problem was his addiction to drugs, a self-imposed condition.
Orme’s other lawyer, Russ Ramey, said this year’s jury had no choice but to recommend death because Orme would have been eligible for parole in 10 years if he had been sentenced to life, and jurors knew that.
The parole system in Florida was done away with shortly after Orme’s first trial, but a life sentence would have been imposed under the guidelines in place then — meaning the possibility of parole after 25 years in prison.
Prosecutor Larry Basford told Pittman that this jury heard more evidence in Orme’s favor than the first.
“This jury has spoken loudly and clearly that the aggravating factors clearly outweigh the mitigating circumstances,” Basford said. “The death penalty is appropriate.”