Friday, December 14, 2007

Court Upholds Man's Death Sentence

Harold Blake was convicted of killing convenience store owner "Mike" Patel.
By Dana Willhoit

BARTOW The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the murder conviction and death sentence for Harold Blake in the Aug. 12, 2002, slaying of Winter Haven convenience store owner Maheshkumar "Mike" Patel.

Blake, 28, of Lakeland, was convicted and sentenced in 2005. At the time he was already serving a life sentence for the fatal shooting of 35-year-old Kelvin Young in Lakeland. Young died 12 days before Patel, a married father of two sons, was killed during an attempted robbery at his store, Del's Go Shop on Coleman Road.

A co-defendant, Richard Reginald Green, was also convicted in Patel's death and was sentenced to life in prison.

Lawyer Bob Norgard, who helped file the appeal for Blake, said Thursday that he had been able to only briefly review the Supreme Court ruling.

"We're disappointed with the court's opinion," Norgard said.

He said that he and co-counsel Andrea Norgard would review the opinion to see whether there are grounds to file a motion for rehearing. The next step would be to see whether there is any basis to file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Blake was convicted of first-degree murder, attempted armed robbery and grand theft of a motor vehicle. His appeal contended that the trial court had erred in denying his motion to suppress a recorded statement he made and not telling him he had the right to represent himself.

The Supreme Court ruling noted that when Blake was arrested on Aug. 14, 2002, he was read his Miranda rights. Blake began talking when he was placed in the sheriff's patrol car and he was taken to a sheriff's station, where he was put into a room with hidden audio and video equipment. The Supreme Court ruled that the secret taping did not violate Blake's rights, in part because Blake merely repeated the same facts that he had stated earlier before the taping began. There was no evidence of coercion during the videotaping, the Supreme Court ruled.

During the trial, Blake filed a motion to fire his lawyer and have a new lawyer appointed. He claimed that after the court denied his motion, he should have been notified of his right to represent himself. The court said in its opinion that the court was not required to notify him of his right to self-representation.

A jury recommended the death penalty for Blake on April 20, 2005. He was sentenced to death by Circuit Judge Roger Alcott on May 13, 2005. Alcott cited Blake's previous conviction for a violent felony, and the fact that he was on felony probation and that the murder was committed during an armed robbery.

The Supreme Court said the death sentence was appropriate.

[ Dana Willhoit can be reached at or 863-533-9079. ]

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