Friday, November 30, 2007

She should die, jury tells judge


JOHN PEMBERTON/The Times-UnionTiffany Cole looks at relatives Thursday as her mother describes photos of Cole as a child. The photos made up a slide show by Cole's attorney during the sentencing phase of her murder trial.

By Steve Patterson,
The Times-Union

Tiffany Cole should die for the kidnapping and murder of a Jacksonville couple buried alive, said a jury whose recommendation Thursday could make Cole the only woman on Florida's Death Row.

Cole's sentence for the deaths of James "Reggie" Sumner and Carol Sumner in July 2005ultimately rests with Circuit Judge Michael R. Weatherby. But the jury's finding is crucial.

It was reached Thursday night after about 40 minutes of deliberation and capped a daylong hearing that included testimony from Cole's family and friends about her kind nature.

A prosecutor urged the jury "do not take the easy way out."

"Carol and Reggie Sumner are dead because of Tiffany Cole," Assistant State Attorney Alan Mizrahi argued. "The dead cannot cry out for justice. It is up to the living."

Cole, 25, would be the first woman sentenced to death in Duval County since 1984, when Andrea Hicks Jackson was sentenced for fatally shooting police officer Gary Bevel. Her term was later changed to life imprisonment.

If Cole avoids the death penalty, she will be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Before sending jurors to deliberate, the judge told them: "it would only be under the rarest of circumstances that I would impose a sentence other than the one you recommended."

Earlier, Mizrahi showed them a photo of the grave in Charlton County, Ga., where the Sumners, both 61 and feeble from illnesses including diabetes, cancer and hepatitis, were buried after being put into the trunk of their own car at their St. Nicholas house.

He also showed a picture of Cole and Michael Jackson, one of her three co-defendants, partying in the back of a limousine with champagne and cash weeks before the killing. He said the Sumners were killed so they couldn't report that Cole, Jackson and the others took their valuables and drained thousands of dollars from their bank accounts using their ATM cards.

"The reason she did this was so she could drive fancy cars, buy fancy clothes and hop from hotel room to hotel room with boys," he said.

Cole's father was a close friend of the Sumners, and prosecutors repeated to the jury that she betrayed the couple and brought brutal robbers to their home.

Defense lawyer Greg Messore said the killings were a jagged piece of a life that otherwise was full of merit.

Jurors listened to extensive testimony about Cole's childhood around Charleston, S.C.

He showed more than 100 photos of Cole - as a toddler, a school cheerleader and band member, a waitress and a young woman with friends and boyfriends - while her mother, Shirley Duncan, narrated. He then said her family loves and misses her.

Two Duval County jail corrections officers described Cole as a model inmate who volunteers to distribute meals and clean the jail.

A former inmate testified that Cole, though significantly younger than her, became a trusted friend who helped her endure being locked up.

Weatherby ordered a hearing Monday to schedule the next steps in sentencing.

Jackson was sentenced to death in August, and a jury has recommended death for another defendant, Alan Wade. The fourth defendant, Bruce Nixon, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and is awaiting sentencing.

Cole didn't move when the jury's decision was announced. About a minute later, teary-eyed, she turned and looked at about 15 relatives sitting in the courtroom, most crying softly.

Relatives of the Sumners, who have sat through a series of trials and hearings, listened quietly to the jury.

Later, in a hallway outside the courtroom, they congratulated Mizrahi and Chief Assistant State Attorney Jay Plotkin on the outcome and talked about next steps in the sentencing while bailiffs led Cole away in shackles.

Carol Sumner's daughter, Rhonda Alford, missed the hearing because of family illness but listened on a speaker phone when the jury recommendation was announced.

steve.patterson@jacksonville.com,

(904) 359-4263


WOMEN ON DEATH ROW

Since 1973, 15 women have been sentenced to death in Florida, according to research quoted by the Death Penalty Information Center, a non-profit research group.

But only two were executed: Judy Buenoano, nicknamed the Black Widow for poisoning her husband for insurance money; and Aileen Wuornos, a prostitute who killed seven men in separate cases and said each raped or tried to rape her. Others, including Jacksonville cop-killer Andrea Hicks Jackson, have had sentences changed. HOMICIDES DATABASE: Learn more about Duval County's homicides since 2004 in a searchable database. More crime and public safety coverage First Coast Fugitivescms_sidebox()

Thursday, November 29, 2007

DNA testing for Arthur


Thursday, November 29, 2007
THE ISSUE: It's inconceivable that the state of Alabama won't order DNA testing before executing a Death Row inmate who claims to be innocent.


Thomas Arthur may absolutely be guilty of a 1982 murder for which he was sentenced to death. Arthur emphatically claims he is not; a jury concluded he was.

The truth is, there's at least some evidence to suggest guilt and other evidence that makes you wonder. Unfortunately, the jury that decided Arthur's fate didn't have the luxury of DNA testing that might have helped them sort through the complicated facts of the case.

Had the technology existed at the time of his trial, surely DNA tests would have been conducted on the evidence, which includes hair and semen. It's routinely used now on the front end of criminal cases to confirm guilt or to eliminate suspects.

It boggles the mind, then, that the state of Alabama won't order DNA tests before proceeding to execute Arthur on Dec. 6.

True, the U.S. Supreme Court this week denied Arthur's legal bid for DNA testing. But the courts are bound by legal timelines and rules. We may not always like those constraints, but at least we can see the reasoning behind the decision.

Gov. Bob Riley is under no such rules. He can order DNA testing in this case, and there's no good reason for him not to do it.

Arthur is accused of killing Troy Wicker, at the behest of Wicker's wife and Arthur's lover, Judy. Judy Wicker at first claimed someone broke into her home, raped her and killed her husband. But later, under a deal to get out of prison, Judy Wicker testified she paid Arthur to do the deed.

Testing evidence recovered in the case - including semen taken from Mrs. Wicker - may merely confirm Arthur's guilt. But it might also implicate someone else or at least lend credence to Mrs. Wicker's first version of the crime. In other words, it could bolster Arthur's claims of innocence. Either way, what does it hurt to do the testing before carrying out Arthur's execution?

Even the victim's family has supported Arthur's efforts to get the evidence tested, expressing uncertainty about the truth in the case.

Other factors the governor should consider: Judy Wicker, who under the prosecutors' theory of the case is as guilty as Arthur, served only 10 years in prison for her husband's murder. The prosecutor who tried Arthur had been a private attorney representing Mrs. Wicker.

And while Arthur asked for the death penalty - in an effort, he said, to ensure more appeals court scrutiny of the case - he was one of the inmates on Alabama's Death Row who missed crucial appeals deadlines because he did not have a lawyer. (Alabama is alone in not making sure condemned inmates have lawyers at every stage of the appeal process, but that's an editorial for another day.)

Arthur's date with death may be held up anyway as a result of a larger court case over the particulars of lethal injection. But it's worth it to hold off on the execution just to allow time for DNA results.

Indeed, if Riley had ordered the test when the request was first made, we'd already have the answer.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Court to release detainee case recordings early




By Joan Biskupic, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court announced Tuesday that it will immediately release audio recordings of oral arguments in next week's Guantanamo detainee cases. The action Dec. 5 will mark the 17th time the media-shy court has released audio of arguments right after the end of the session in the red upholstered and white marble courtroom.

Long-standing policy at the enclave, where cameras, tape recorders and cellphones are barred, dictates that audio recordings are released at the end of each annual term to the National Archives. The first exceptions came in December 2000, when the court permitted the same-day release of recordings in two Florida cases involving the disputed presidential election.

No video recordings have ever been made.

Since 2000, the court has allowed early release of arguments over abortion, campaign financing, school integration and other incendiary subjects. C-SPAN and other radio and TV networks air the hour-long sessions, or excerpts. On TV, photographs of the justices typically are shown as the recording plays.

In next week's consolidated Guantanamo cases, people will be able to hear the questions and answers of the nine justices as well as Seth Waxman, representing the detainees, and U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, representing the federal government. The dispute, one of the most important to come to the justices in the post-9/11 era, tests whether foreign prisoners at the U.S. naval base in Cuba have a right to challenge their detention before federal judges.

In light of constant television coverage of Congress and the president and today's 24/7 media atmosphere, the court's policy of no cameras and rare audio releases has become increasingly contentious. Bills pending in Congress, sponsored by key members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, would permit the televising of Supreme Court proceedings.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, a sponsor, applauded the announcement Tuesday, saying a "step to a more accountable and transparent judiciary is … more access to what occurs in America's courts."

Individual justices have urged Congress not to pass a law allowing cameras at the court. This year, Justice Anthony Kennedy told a Senate panel, "The majority on my court feel very strongly … that televising our proceedings would change our collegial dynamic." Chief Justice John Roberts said in a speech that the justices worry "about the impact of television on the functioning of the institution."

"The court's practice has always been to release audio at the end of the term," court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said Tuesday. She said exceptions are made when the court believes "heightened public interest" exists. She also said the consideration of an exception is "prompted by requests from at least one, and usually more than one, news organization."

C-SPAN, which asked that the Guantanamo cases be released, has sought same-day audio for 15 cases since Roberts became chief justice in the fall of 2005. Eight of those, including next week's Al Odah v. United States and Boumediene v. Bush, have been granted.

Among the requests rejected this year were those involving federal regulation of election campaign advertising, U.S. criminal sentencing rules and a Texas death penalty case involving a Mexican citizen that tested the president's power.

The factors the justices weigh for "heightened public interest" are not clear, C-SPAN President Susan Swain said.

Although she's pleased with the early release of audio next week, she said, "Audio with pictures is a poor substitute for video in our society. … We're going to continue to hope that someday the court will open up to cameras."

Public defender Brummer to retire after three decades


Miami-Dade Public Defender Bennett Brummer announced Monday that he will retire when his current term in office ends in January 2009.
Bennett H. Brummer
• Age: 66.
• Born: April 16, 1941, New York.
• Party: Democrat.
• Education: University of Miami, bachelor's in English, 1962; University of Miami School of Law, 1965; University of Pennsylvania School of Law, Community Lawyer Fellowship, 1968-1970.
• Recent professional and political experience: Dade public defender, 1977-2007.
• Personal: Married to Arlene Brummer for 45 years.




BY SUSANNAH A. NESMITH

Ending a three-decade career as the county's top defense attorney, Miami-Dade Public Defender Bennett Brummer announced Monday that he will not seek reelection next year.
Brummer, who has held the position since 1977, said he made the announcement in part to end speculation about whether he would run for reelection and to give ``ample notice to his employees, friends and the public.''

''I've been thinking about [retiring] for many years. I wanted to leave when the office was at its strongest,'' he said.

News of his impending retirement didn't surprise many -- rumors that he was about to step aside have swirled around the criminal courthouse for years -- but it did prompt an outpouring of praise from judges, private defense attorneys and even the Miami-Dade State Attorney.

''Bennett Brummer has spent his professional life serving our community,'' Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle said. ``As state attorney, I have always appreciated his vision and his deep personal commitment to the people of this community. Miami-Dade County is profoundly indebted to him.''

Said Miami-Dade County Judge Robin Faber: ``I'm a better judge for the time I spent there.''

Rick Freedman, now vice president of the Miami-Dade chapter of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said the years he spent as an assistant public defender under Brummer were the best of his career.

'When I was handed a file, I was told `Rick, do whatever it takes.' If I needed assistance from a senior colleague, I got it. If I needed direction, I got it,'' he said.

Brummer was also lauded Monday by community activists who say his work on behalf of the mentally ill and mentally retarded made Miami-Dade a safer place for them to live.

During his tenure, Brummer also helped lead the fight for better funding for indigent defense, pulling his attorneys off hundreds of juvenile cases in 1992 because he said it would be unethical for his office to take on more cases than the attorneys could reasonably handle. He later refused to take more death penalty cases for the same reason.

He took the issue all the way to the Florida Supreme Court and forced changes in the way public defenders across the state are funded.

''Indigent defense and indigent healthcare are usually the last two things that government wants to fund, and he made sure they funded indigent defense at the levels they needed to be funded,'' Pinellas County Public Defender Bob Dillinger said. ``That was a courageous act.''

Brummer even took his crusade for good representation for the poor to other countries, consulting around Latin America with governments setting up their own public defenders' offices.

''He worked closely with public defender systems internationally to strengthen offices in countries where people who will never know who he is will have their freedom because of his work,'' said John DeLeon, a former assistant in his office who left Miami-Dade to work in Bogotá to help the government there improve its public defender system.

Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, a Miami civil rights attorney, said Brummer was particularly good at giving his attorneys the freedom they needed to do their jobs, even in tough political climates.

''Many indigent offices pull punches, or feel like they have to pull punches, because they get their funding from government,'' she said. ``The fact that he backed up his lawyers when they took strong positions in court, that speaks volumes of him.''

It also where he faced some his strongest criticism.

In the mid-'90s, when his office was defending Juan Carlos Chavez, the man convicted of raping and killing 9-year-old Jimmy Ryce, Brummer's attorneys and even his secretaries received death threats.

One of Chavez's attorneys later left the office and accused Brummer of not letting him do his job adequately because he was concerned about the upcoming election. A judge last year, however, ruled Chavez's legal team effectively represented him and refused to order a new trial.

Brummer says the case was ''the most difficult case that we've been privileged to handle during my tenure'' but that he was proud of how his attorneys handled it.

''This is the way we lose our liberty, when people would deprive unpopular people of their day in court, which was all Mr. Chavez got,'' he said Monday.

Brummer also faced criticism during the 2004 election -- one of only three elections when he faced opposition. That year, a handful of former assistant public defenders complained of heavy-handed tactics by Brummer loyalists. Two of his top assistants had to pay fines to the state election commission after admitting they asked employees to sign endorsements in the office.

Brummer's office also agreed to pay attorney Lonnie Richardson $200,000 to settle his claim that he was fired for supporting Brummer's opponent in 2004.

Brummer said he hopes his tenure is remembered for his efforts in the community, not the conflicts that erupted over the years. ''Our community involvement is a hallmark of the office that I would like to see continue,'' he said.

On Monday, Brummer's chief assistant, Carlos Martinez, said he had filed election papers to succeed his boss.

Man Indicted in Shooting of Fla. Deputy

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A man suspected of fatally shooting a 76-year-old sheriff's deputy who was taking him to a court appearance was indicted Tuesday on charges that could bring the death penalty.

Michael Mazza, 40, was charged with first-degree murder, robbery, carjacking and escape. He is being held without bail and will likely be arraigned next month, according to prosecutor Michael J. Satz.

Mazza is charged with killing Broward County sheriff's deputy Paul Rein with the officer's firearm Nov. 7. Investigators say Mazza — already serving one life prison term for a robbery conviction — overpowered Rein while being taken to court in a medical van for an appearance on another robbery charge.

Mazza was captured a few hours after the shooting at a pawn shop.

Mazza's public defender, Bruce Raticoff, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel the indictment was expected. Raticoff did not return a message left by The Associated Press.

Please read this DNA appeal to 11 circuit Is he innocent?????

Please read this DNA appeal to 11 circuit Is he innocent?????


http://www.thomasarthurfightforlife.com/images/Arthur_11th_Circuit_DNA_Appeal.pdf

Alabama Governor’s 45-Day Stay of Execution for Thomas Arthur Should Immediately Lead to DNA Testing, Innocence Project Says




‘Governor Riley is out of excuses. The 45-day stay of execution gives us more than enough time to conduct and complete DNA testing that could show whether Thomas Arthur is guilty or innocent,’ Neufeld says

(MONTGOMERY, AL; September 27, 2007) – Today, Alabama Governor Bob Riley issued a 45-day stay of execution for Thomas Arthur so that the state can change its lethal injection protocol. Arthur was set to be executed this evening. The Innocence Project, which represents prisoners seeking to prove their innocence through DNA testing, has been asking Governor Riley to issue a stay of execution in Arthur’s case in order to conduct DNA testing that could prove his guilt or innocence. The Innocence Project said today that Governor Riley should immediately order DNA testing in Arthur’s case – and that DNA testing could be completed well within the 45days granted in the stay of execution.

Arthur’s case is the second in less than two months in which Governor Riley has refused to allow for DNA testing before an execution. In July, Darrell Grayson was executed in Alabama without DNA testing that could have conclusively proven his guilt or innocence. The Innocence Project, which does not represent Arthur and does not have a position on his guilt or innocence, said DNA testing in Arthur’s case could show whether the initial story from the victim’s wife was, in fact, accurate. (She initially claimed a stranger – someone other than Arthur – broke into their home, raped her and killed her husband. Police suspected she was lying, and she was charged and convicted in the murder. She then changed her story and testified against Arthur in order to be released from prison earlier.) Her motive to lie is obvious, the Innocence Project says. Several pieces of evidence – the victim’s wife’s blood-stained clothing, a rape kit collected from her after the crime, and hairs in the victim’s wife’s car – could be subjected to DNA testing. The testing could show that her testimony against Arthur was false, and the DNA testing could identify the true perpetrator. For example, it’s possible that the testing could show that her original story was true and that she was raped, and the DNA profile from evidence in the rape could be entered in the federal DNA database and yield a hit to a man matching her initial description of the intruder at the couple’s home.

Following is a statement from Peter Neufeld, Innocence Project Co-Director, on today’s developments in the Arthur case:

“Governor Riley said last week that DNA testing was only a tactic to delay this execution. It’s not. Now that the execution is delayed for other reasons,

DNA testing should be started immediately. By the time Governor Riley made his statements last week that we were simply trying to delay this execution, weeks had passed since we first requested DNA testing – and the testing could have already been conducted.

“The 45-day stay of execution gives us more than enough time to conduct and complete DNA testing that could show whether Thomas Arthur is guilty or innocent. Governor Riley is out of excuses. There is no reason to continue denying DNA testing – and every reason to start the process for DNA testing immediately.

“As we have said before, we do not have a position on whether Thomas Arthur is guilty or innocent. Our concern is that biological evidence may exist that could be subjected to DNA testing and prove whether or not he is guilty. The victim’s wife in this case was convicted of murdering her husband and then changed her story; DNA testing could show that she changed her story only to get out of prison sooner, and that in fact someone other than Thomas Arthur committed this crime.

“In 42 states, Darrell Grayson or Thomas Arthur would have been able to get DNA testing that could resolve their cases and maintain public confidence in the criminal justice system. Governor Riley, who has refused DNA testing before executions twice in the last two months, has made it clear that he isn’t concerned with getting to the truth in these cases. Nationwide, 15 people who served time on death row have been exonerated through DNA evidence. Sometimes within days of execution, DNA proved they were innocent. If any of those 15 people had been in Alabama, they would be dead today.

“This indifference to the power of DNA to determine the truth through hard science is unconscionable. It is nothing short of a national scandal that Governor Riley is repeatedly refusing DNA testing before executions when testing could confirm guilt or innocence. With this 45-day window of time, Governor Riley has an opportunity to restore faith in the system and restore credibility to his office.”

Save Thomas D. Arthur From Execution 12-06-2007

Target:
Everyone who is interested is saving an innocent person from execution

Created by:
Sherrie Stone Daughter of Thomas Arthur

We the undersigned are fighting for Thomas Arthur to be allowed DNA testing that could conclusively prove his innocence. We are asking that Alabama Governor Riley order DNA testing of evidence that includes blood, hair and semon was recovered and still exists, but it has never been tested!!! DNA testing of the evidence evidence can conclusively prove Thomas Arthur is innocent and was never at the crime scene, as he has proclaimed for 25 years. Yet the State of Alabama not only REFUSES to DNA test the crime scene evidence--but it is refusing to allow Arthur to have the evidence DNA tested at HIS EXPENSE!!! Is the State of Alabama refusing because they know Thomas Arthur is innocent--then it is not seeking to execute him---but to LEGALLY murder him. We are asking that Governor Riley allow Thomas Arthur a new trial so that he may present ALL of the evidence that can prove his innocence. There are two eye witnesses placing Arthur 75 miles away when crime was committed. The DNA evidence will prove if the two women found at the crime scene fired the weapon that shot the victim. It can prove Arthur did not have sex with Judy Wicker prior to the murder, it can prove blooded shirts might have another persons blood on it. The semen can be put in an FBI data base to se if another person could have committd this crime. No physical evidence links this man to the crime!!! 20 years on Death Row is a crime, but to be executed for a crime you are innocent of is something you will have on your conscience for ever Governor....Governor Riley, hear our voices , we demand the crime scene evidence be DNA tsted, and that you immediately order an investigation into this case by the Alabama Bureau of Investigation. You can go to http://www.thomasarthurfightforlife.com/ and see the circumstantial evidence and the DNA evidence from the court records. You decide which proves absolute innocence or guilt.

Save Thomas D. Arthur From Execution 12-06-2007

Target:
Everyone who is interested is saving an innocent person from execution

Created by:
Sherrie Stone Daughter of Thomas Arthur

We the undersigned are fighting for Thomas Arthur to be allowed DNA testing that could conclusively prove his innocence. We are asking that Alabama Governor Riley order DNA testing of evidence that includes blood, hair and semon was recovered and still exists, but it has never been tested!!! DNA testing of the evidence evidence can conclusively prove Thomas Arthur is innocent and was never at the crime scene, as he has proclaimed for 25 years. Yet the State of Alabama not only REFUSES to DNA test the crime scene evidence--but it is refusing to allow Arthur to have the evidence DNA tested at HIS EXPENSE!!! Is the State of Alabama refusing because they know Thomas Arthur is innocent--then it is not seeking to execute him---but to LEGALLY murder him. We are asking that Governor Riley allow Thomas Arthur a new trial so that he may present ALL of the evidence that can prove his innocence. There are two eye witnesses placing Arthur 75 miles away when crime was committed. The DNA evidence will prove if the two women found at the crime scene fired the weapon that shot the victim. It can prove Arthur did not have sex with Judy Wicker prior to the murder, it can prove blooded shirts might have another persons blood on it. The semen can be put in an FBI data base to se if another person could have committd this crime. No physical evidence links this man to the crime!!! 20 years on Death Row is a crime, but to be executed for a crime you are innocent of is something you will have on your conscience for ever Governor....Governor Riley, hear our voices , we demand the crime scene evidence be DNA tsted, and that you immediately order an investigation into this case by the Alabama Bureau of Investigation. You can go to http://www.thomasarthurfightforlife.com/ and see the circumstantial evidence and the DNA evidence from the court records. You decide which proves absolute innocence or guilt.

The Case of Thomas Arthur




Arthur's first conviction and sentence to death for the murder of Troy Wicker was reversed by the Alabama Supreme court on May 10, 1985. Ex parte Arthur, 472 So. 2d 665 (Ala. 1985)

Arthur was convicted and sentenced to death a second time for the Troy Wicker murder, but his second conviction and sentenced were reversed by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. Arthur v. State, 575 So. 2d 1165 (Ala. Crim. App. 1990)
Arthur was tried a third time for the murder of Troy wicker and convicted on December 5, 1991. (CR. 11, R. 1150) The trial court, following the jury's recommendation, sentenced Arthur to death on January 24, 1992 (Cr. 12, 14-27:R 1237, 1291-1300).

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Arthur's conviction and death sentence on March 8, 1996. Arthur v. State, 711 So. 2d 1031 (Ala. Crim. App. 1996)

The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Criminal Appeals on November 21, 1997. Ex parte Arthur, 711 So. 2d 1097 (Ala. 1997) Arthur's application for re-hearing was denied 1998.

Justice Denied magazine published an article in the fall of 1999 about Thomas Arthur's case and included his plea for a lawyer to step forward to handle his state and federal post-conviction appeals pro bono, because Alabama doesn't provide a post-conviction lawyer for a death row prisoner. Read Justice Denied Article

Arthur did not petition for the writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of the United States, or did he seek state of federal collateral review at any time before January 25, 2001. *Note: During this time Arthur was desperately seeking a "voluntary attorney". He did not have an attorney. Read Article

On September 15, 2000, the State filed an "Amended Motion to Set Execution Date" in the Supreme Court of Alabama.

On January 25, 2001, Arthur, proceeding through counsel, filed his rule 32 Petition in the Tenth Judicial Circuit Court of Jefferson County, Alabama . The Rule 32 Petition was dismissed as untimely on March 5, 2001. *Note: By the time Arthur found counsel, his petition was filed late.

On March 23, 2001, the Alabama Supreme Court entered its order setting Friday, April 27, 2001, as Arthur's execution date.

On March 28, 2001, Arthur filed a motion to reconsider the dismissal of the Rule 32 petition in the Tenth Circuit of Jefferson County Alabama, and on April 4, 2001, Arthur filed a "Motion for stay of Execution" in the Alabama Supreme Court.

On April 11, 2001, the Alabama Supreme Court denied Arthur's motion to stay his execution.

On April 20, 2001, Arthur filed his "Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus" and his Motion for Stay of Execution" in this Court. After consideration of written and oral arguments, this court entered its order granting Arthur's motion for stay on April 25, 2001. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals denied Respondent's motion to vacate dissolve the stay on April 26, 2001.

Because Arthur's March 28, 2001, motion reconsider was pending in the Tenth Judicial Circuit Court in Jefferson County Alabama , this court stayed consideration of the present habeas corpus petition until the conclusion of the state court proceedings initiated by Arthur's Rule 32 Petition.

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the denial and dismissal of the state post-conviction petition on April 25, 2001. Arthur v. State, 820 So. 2d 886 (Ala. Crim. app. 201) State court review of Arthur's Rule 32 Petition concluded when the Alabama Supreme Court denied Arthur's petition for the writ of certiorari on November 2, 2001.

On May 13, 2002, the United States Supreme Court denied Arthur's petition for writ of certiorari from his state court Rule 32 proceedings.

The District Court for the Northern District of Alabama entered its memorandum of opinion on December 4, 2002.

The District Court for the Northern District of Alabama entered it's memorandum of opinion denying Arthur's motion to alter or amend judgment on June 4, 2003.

The Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit decision was entered on June 21,2006

The opinion of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals was entered August 14, 2006.

On September 21, 2006, Justice Thomas extended the time for filing a petition for writ of certiorari to January 11, 2007.

On January 11, 2007, Arthur files Petition for A Writ of Certiorari Writ Of Certio

On March 27, 2007, Arthur files Reply To Brief In Opposition Brief In Opposition

On April 16, 2007, The Alabama Supreme Court sets the execution date for September 27, 2007. Death Order

On May 14, 2007 Arthur filed a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. & 1983 challenging the constitutionality of Alabama's lethal injection Protocol in effect at the time.

The State of Alabama moved to dismiss the complaint on various grounds.

On May 17th, Arthur filed in the Supreme court of Alabama a memorandum in Opposition To the State of Alabama's Motion To Set An Execution Date. See Respondent's Memorandum

On August 17, 2007, Thomas Arthurs request to access and test the DNA evidence was turned down by the Middle District Court of Alabama.. The Judge ruled it could not help him prove his innocence!!!! Read the Court Documents and Judges Opinion

On August 27, 2007 In The Middle District Court, Thomas Arthur filed a Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment. Read Motion To Alter Or Amend Judgment

September7, 2007, a Brief of Thomas Arthur was filed with the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit on their decision to deny DNA evidence and the right to discovery. Read Brief Of Thomas Arthur

September 12, 2007, his brief was denied.

The courts set an execution date for September 27, 2007 See Death Warrant
September 12, 2007, A Motion of Appellant Thomas D. Arthur Was filed For A Stay of Execution in the United States court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. See Motion for Stay

September 12, 2007 A Brief of Thomas D. Arthur was filed in the United States Court of appeals For the Eleventh Circuit for a request that the court hear oral argument in regard to DNA evidence and newly discovered evidence bearing on the plaintiffs innocence. Read Entire Brief Of Thomas D. Arthur

September 17, 2007 The U.S. Court of Appeals For The Eleventh circuit denies Arthur's lethal Injection motion as being cruel and unusual punishment because it was filed before the execution date was set. But then saying it was filed too late. Two Judges dissented on the decision Read The Courts Decision

September 21, 2007 The U.S Court of Appeals Eleventh Circuit For the Eleventh Circuit denied Arthurs DNA Motion to stay of execution as moot. See Courts Decision
September 21, 2007 A Motion For Stay Of Execution was filed in the Supreme Court Of The United States by Arthur. Read Motion For Stay

September 21, 2007, A Petition for a Writ Of Certiorari (Lethal Injection) was filed by Arthur in The Supreme Court of the United States. See Writ of Certiorari
September 24, 2007, The State filed a Brief of Respondents In Opposition To Certiorari And Accompanying

Application For Stay Of Execution. See States Brief In Opposition

September 25, 2007 Arthur files A Petition For A Writ Of Certiorari (DNA ) In The Supreme Court of the United States. See Writ Of Certiorari (DNA)

September 25, 2007 A Motion for Stay Of Execution (Based On DNA Testing) was filed In the Supreme Court Of The United States. Read Motion

September 25, 2007 An Emergency Motion Of Thomas D Arthur For A Stay Of Execution was Filed In The Supreme Court Of Alabama. Read Emergency Motion

September 26, 2007, The State filed Petition Brief Of Respondent In Opposition To Petition And In Opposition To A Stay Of Execution (DNA Based) Read Petition

September 26, 2007 Thomas Arthur filed a Supplemental Brief In The United States Supreme Court. Read Supplemental Brief

September 26, 2007 Thomas Arthur filed a second Supplemental Brief In The Supreme Court Of The United States. Read Second Supplemental Brief

Arthur's attorneys received a call from the Governor's legal advisor Scott Rouse informing them that Alabama was changing their lethal injection protocol. Arthurs daughter was actually doing a live interview with a local TV station when the attorneys called her, and said they were filing a second brief. The reporter was sitting right there and that statement was broadcast live that evening that the State was changing it's lethal injection protocol, but was intending on executing Arthur anyway. This probably saved Arthur's life the next day, along with all the media pressure on the Governor about the DNA testing.

September 26, 2007 The State filed a petition In The Supreme court Of The United States Respondents Reply to Supplemental Brief Read Respondent's Reply

September 26, 2007 The State filed a petition In The Supreme Court Of The United States Respondent's Reply To Petitioners Second Supplemental Brief. Read Respondent's Reply to Second Brief

September 27, 2007, as Arthur's daughter was spending her last 15 minutes with her father alive, a call came in from the Governors office that Arthur had been granted a 45 day "reprieve". See Governors 45 Day Reprieve

September 27, 2007 , The Governor immediately issued a press release that the reprieve was only to give the State time to change it's protocol, and there was "overwhelming evidence that Arthur was guilty and would be executed immediately following the 45 day reprieve". (on the home page, you can click on the over whelming circumstantial evidence, and then you can click on the crime scene evidence that could be DNA tested to prove Arthur was not at the crime scene and someone else committed the murder, but the Governor has denied the DNA testing at Arthur's expense, and prefers to murder someone with circumstantial evidence opposed to scientific DNA testing) See Governor's Press Release

September 28, 2007, The State filed a motion In The Supreme Court Of Alabama To Set An Execution Date. See Motion To Set New Execution Date

October 04, 2007 Respondent , Thomas Arthur filed a Supplemental Memorandum In Opposition To the State Of Alabama's Motion To Set An Execution Date. This was filed In The Supreme court Of Alabama. See Motion

October 04, 2007 A Motion (Opposition to Lethal Injection) Was filed In The Supreme Court of the United States by Arthur. Petitioners Response To Brief In Opposition.

(On Petition for a Writ of Certiorari To The United States Court of appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.) See Petition Filed

October 09, 2007, Arthur filed a Civil Action Complaint (Lethal Injection Based) In The United States District Court for The Southern District Of Alabama. Civil Action No. CV. 07-772 See Civil Action Complaint

October 09, 2007, Arthur filed a DNA Motion In The Supreme Court of the United States. Petitioners Reply To Brief In Opposition (On Petition For A Writ Of Certiorari To the United States Court Of Appeals For the Eleventh Circuit) See DNA Motion To Supreme Court Of United States

October 12, 2007, Arthur filed a Second Supplemental Memorandum In Opposition To The State Of Alabama's Motion To Set An Execution Date. Filed In the Supreme Court Of Alabama See Second Supplemental Memorndum

October 19, 2007 Arthur filed a Third Supplemental Memorandum to the Alabama Supreme Court of Alabama, in opposition of the State setting an execution date. See Third Supplemental Memorandum

October 31, 2007, the Alabama Supreme Court Set a new execution date for Thomas Arthur December 06, 2007 See New Death Order

October 31, 2007, The State filed a motion with the Southern District of Alabama, Southern Division to dismiss Arthurs 1983 Action Challenging Alabama's Method of Execution See States Motion To Dismiss

November, the Governors Office Policy Director, Bryan Taylor verbally requested from the Innocence Project, guidance on how the Governors Office should approach requests for post-conviction DNA testing in capital cases. November 05, 2007 The Innocence Project based in New York sent the requested information to the governor's Office. See Letter From Innocence Project

November 02, 2007 Arthur filed in the Alabama Supreme Court, a Motion To Vacate The Order Setting An Execution Date of December 06, 2007 See Motion To Vacate

November 05, 2007 Arthur filed in the United States District Court For The Southern District Of Alabama, A Memorandum Of Law In Oppsition To The States Motion To Dismiss Arthurs 2nd Lethal Injection Motion. See Motion Of Opposition

November 09, 2007, The State filed In The United States District Court For the Southern District Of alabama, A Motion In Opposition To Arthurs Motion To Dismiss See States Motion

November 14, 2007 The Supreme Court Of Alabama ordered that Arthurs Motion to Vacate Execution date set for December 06, 2007 is Denied. See Alabama Supreme Court Ruling

November 15, 2007 The United States District Court For The Southern District Of Alabama Southern Division , Judge William H. Steele granted the States Motion To Dismiss See Judges Ruling

November 26, 2007, The United States Supreme Court denied Arthur's motion to have the crime scene evidence DNA tested. ( A copy of this ruling will be available later) This decision was based on the fact that Arthur filed his habeas corpus petition late in 2001. This decision is based on the AEDPA (Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996) See AEDPA Law. "This law takes away the Supreme Court's power to review a court of appeal's denial of that permission, thus placing final authority for the filing of the petition in the hands of the federal court of appeals. So in the United States, there is no statue of limitations on conviction of murder, but there is a statue of limitations on proving your innocence". In 2001 ,when Arthur was late filing his habeas corpus, he did not have an attorney. Alabama is the only state in the United States that does not provide death row inmates the right to an attorney during post-conviction appeals (habeas corpus) and by the time he found an attorney to represent him pro-bono, his habeas corpus & rule 32 were filed late.

November 26, 2007 Arthur filed a motion for stay of execution in the United States Supreme Court based on constitutionality of lethal injection. See Motion For Stay

November 28, 2007, A Class Action Petition was filed was filed in the Middle District Court of Alabama Northern Division by a private citizen of Alabama who feels her Constitutional & Civil rights are being violated by the State of Alabama by refusing to DNA test the crime scene evidence. Read Class Action Petition

US Supreme Court justices will not allow a death row inmate's challenge using DNA evidence


(AP) - WASHINGTON-The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to allow a death row inmate to try to prove his innocence through DNA testing.

Thomas Arthur, 65, was sentenced for the 1982 killing of Troy Wicker of Muscle Shoals, Alabama. His execution has been set for Dec 6, but is expected to be delayed because of a pending Supreme Court case involving lethal injections.

The victim's wife, Judy Wicker, testified at Arthur's trial that she had sex with him and paid him $10,000 (€6,735) to kill her husband, who was shot in the face as he lay in bed. Earlier at her own trial, Wicker testified that a man burglarizing her home raped her, knocked her unconscious and then shot her husband.

In April, Arthur's lawyers sued the state claiming that the inmate was being deprived of his rights and was entitled to DNA testing of critical pieces of physical evidence, including a rape kit, blood-stained clothing and hairs aimed at showing that someone other than Arthur committed the murder.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta affirmed a federal judge who dismissed Arthur's lawsuit, citing the authority of federal courts to dismiss such claims that are speculative or are filed too late in proceedings.

Arthur filed his claim five days before the state of Alabama moved to set an execution date.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Man sentenced to death for killing 72-year-old


Attorneys Larry Henderson (left) and Gerod Hooper flank Lionel Michael Miller during his sentencing at Orange County Courthouse on Tuesday. Miller was sentenced to death for fatally stabbing an Orlando woman with Alzheimer's disease. (Gary W. Green, Orlando Sentinel / November 27, 2007)


Sarah Lundy Sentinel Staff Writer

7:44 PM EST, November 27, 2007

An Orange County jury recommended the death penalty today for Lionel Miller, 59, the man convicted of killing Jerry Smith, a 72-year-old grandmother who suffered from Alzheimer's disease.

Orange-Osceola Chief Circuit Court Judge Belvin Perry Jr. will make the final determination. A Dec. 21 hearing is set to give prosecutors and defense attorneys another chance to argue for or against the death penalty.

Miller's sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 25 but it's unusual for judges to go against jury recommendations.

Prosecutors say Miller targeted Smith, figuring the woman who appeared to suffer from dementia would be easy to rob. But she put up a fight.

Neighbor - Larry Haydon - heard her screams and tried to save her. He was stabbed on his side but survived.

Smith ran out the door and into her backyard. Miller caught up and stabbed her multiple times, prosecutors said.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Jury To Decide Fate Of Homeless Man Who Killed On Easter Sunday


ORLANDO, Fla. -- Lionel Miller stabbed Chris Smith's mother in her Delaney Park home last Easter Sunday. Last week, a jury found Miller guilty and Monday, the penalty phase started.

Jurors could decide as early as Tuesday if they want Miller to live or die. Jerry Smith's son and his wife shared their heart-breaking stories about her, who she was and how much they miss her. Her son, Chris, a well-known and tough criminal defense attorney in Orlando, broke down as he shared his deep, personal pain with the jury.

"How do you measure the loss of the person who is responsible for giving you all that you have," Chris Smith asked the jury.

Chris told the jury how she raised him on her own and developed a career at a time when single mothers were not well thought of or well treated. She moved to Orlando to be close to his children, just ten doors away.

Her greatest fear was being murdered by a stranger. Her family assured her that Delaney Park was safe and that there was no need to be locking her doors as she always did. They never thought a homeless man named Lionel Miller would enter the picture and murder her in her own home.

"I feel I didn't take care of her as I should when she was vulnerable. That I was not there to protect her when she was in danger, but mostly I regret that I lacked the courage and foresight to run faster, to reach harder to push the paramedics out of the way and touch her one last time so that she could feel my love," Smith added.

Smith's wife told the jury of Jerry Smith's elegance, how she loved to read and travel and how she loved her family and took care of them.

"We have this cutting board in our house that she always used to spray with Windex and we always used to tease her about it and now I spray that cutting board every day," said Mimi Smith, Jerry Smith's daughter-in-law. "It's funny what you remember about people."

Miller should not have been in Florida last Easter. He'd already done time for shooting and killing a man 30 years ago and was on parole for armed robbery in Oregon when he skipped.

The Florida jury will decide how to stop him from doing anything like this again by giving him prison for life or a death sentence.

Another Christmas in jail


BY ANDRE BAGOO Monday, November 26 2007

FLORIDA authorities are conducting an investigation to determine whether or not Krishna Maharaj, the brother of former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, should be granted clemency after being convicted on a murder charge and serving 20 years in prison.

Paul Lomas, Maharaj’s British lawyer, last week told Newsday that the ongoing Florida Parole Board investigation is a normal part of the clemency procedure.

At the end of the investigation a report will be drawn up and a hearing date will be set to deal with the full issue of whether or not Maharaj, who has been in prison for 20 years, will be set free.

But despite hopes that the Board would have completed its investigation for the hearing in time for either Christmas or January of next year, Lomas said it is likely that the hearing will take place sometime in March or April instead.

The pending investigation means that Maharaj, 67, will spend yet another Christmas in prison. But according to Lomas, Maharaj remains in good spirits.

“Kris is...encouraged by the support he has had,” Lomas said.

Maharaj, a British citizen and former millionaire racehorse owner, was tried in October 1987, for the October 16, 1986 murders of Jamaican Derrick Moo Young and his 23-year-old son Duane at a Miami hotel room. A jury in Miami found him guilty, and recommended the death penalty by a slender majority of 7-5. He was sent to deathrow on December 1, 1987.

His death sentence was eventually overturned after he spent 15 years on deathrow. A judge then sentenced him to another 25 years to life in prison, bringing his total sentence to 53 years to life, including a mandatory three years for using a firearm.

Lawyers in the matter have maintained that there were gross irregularities with his original trial.

The clemency application will be Maharaj’s last chance to escape prison after already serving 20 years and exhausting all his possible appeals.

Earlier this year, Krishna was granted a waiver hearing on his clemency application. The prosecution presented its opposition to clemency in May. Krishna’s defence in turn presented his case for clemency in August before the aides to the Florida Clemency Board where he was granted a clemency hearing pending the conclusion of further investigation.

If Maharaj is eventually refused clemency, then he will be unable to apply for clemency for a further three years.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

3rd family may get $hot at FBI in Whitey case


By Laurel J. Sweet
Monday, November 26, 2007

A judge has left open the door for family of a third alleged victim of fugitive gangland butcher James “Whitey” Bulger to financially exact revenge on the FBI without enduring the torment of a trial.

Sandra Castucci, widow of slain FBI informant Richard Castucci, will have her day in court Feb. 19 when U.S. District Court Judge Reginald C. Lindsay considers her motion for summary judgment.

Lindsay scheduled the hearing fresh off his rebuke of the U.S. Department of Justice last week. In a rare bombshell from the bench, he declared the feds liable for the 1982 murders of Edward Brian Halloran and Michael Donahue.

Bulger was allegedly gunning for Halloran because rogue Boston FBI Agent John “Zip” Connolly told him Halloran was going to implicate him in a murder. Donahue was an innocent bystander.

The DOJ has refused to comment on Lindsay’s stern suggestion that it settle a half-dozen wrongful-death suits spun off Bulger’s reign of terror in Boston.

“There’s absolutely no empathy in this Justice Department. Nothing,” said Michael Laurano, Sandra Castucci’s attorney.

“I think I have the evidence on paper to prove my case,” Laurano said. “I think I will prevail on summary judgment, but personally, I don’t think they’re going to settle.”

Castucci, 48, a nightclub owner and father of four, was shot to death on Dec. 29, 1976, by Bulger hitman John Martorano, his bloodied body stuffed in the trunk of his Cadillac in a snowdrift in Revere. Acting on yet another tip from Connolly, Bulger allegedly ordered Castucci killed for giving up the hiding place of two fellow hoods.

Laurano maintains Connolly was motivated to buddy up to Bulger and his sidekick Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi because the poison pair were crucial to the FBI’s mission of destroying the Mafia. Connolly faces the death penalty in Florida if convicted of helping Bulger’s crew whack a Miami businessman.

More grieving families are waiting in the wings of federal court. They include:

• Anna Litif, widow of Louis Litif, a bookie Bulger allegedly silenced for talking to the FBI.

• Olga Davis, mother of Debra Davis, who Flemmi has testified was strangled to death because she knew too much about his and Bulger’s partnership with the FBI.

• Marion Hussey, mother of Deborah Hussey. Flemmi testified his girlfriend’s teenage daughter was choked to death for dropping his and Bulger’s names to get preferential treatment.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Criminalization Of Black Children


If you were asked where the United States ranks among industrialized countries on low birthweight, infant mortality or child poverty, a guess much higher than the bottom on any of these social indicators would be wrong.

But if you were asked where America stands on imprisoning its citizens, you would be correct to answer that we surpass everyone else. Our nation incarcerates more people — over 2.3 million in 2006 — than any other country.

Because justice is not equally administered in the United States, Black males are disproportionately represented among America's imprisoned population, currently numbering 837,000 in state and federal prisons. Our ranking as the world’s number one jailer represents a monumental national failure.

More and more of those who enter the Prison Pipeline start with arrest records as young children. Earlier this year, a police officer arrested seven-year-old Gerard Mungo, Jr., in East Baltimore, Maryland, claiming that the child was riding a dirt bike on the sidewalk. Gerard was handcuffed and taken to a police station where officers took his fingerprints and mug shot.

Incarceration is extremely costly. In California, state detention centers for young people cost $216,000 a year per child; county facilities cost about $117,000. States spend on average nearly three times as much per prisoner as they do per public school pupil. In some states, the growth in prison costs also exceeds the growth in higher education spending. When it costs more to detain a child than to provide him a Head Start, we need to seriously reassess our nation's values and priorities. While there seems to be no cap on prison spending; Head Start funding serves only half of those eligible.

We need to refocus what we do with the children we detain. Too much cruelty permeates our youth detention culture where the focus is often on control and punishment instead of rehabilitation. A 2003 U.S. Department of Justice investigation into conditions at Oakley and Columbia Juvenile Training Schools in Mississippi found that juveniles there were being hog-tied with chains, physically assaulted by guards, sprayed with chemicals during military exercises, forced to eat their own vomit and put in dark, solitary confinement cells after being stripped naked. Mississippi's juvenile justice system is now under a federal judicial decree because of these and other violations found by the Department of Justice.

For some young people, being sent to a youth detention facility can be a death sentence. In January 2006, 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson died of suffocation at a state-run boot camp in Florida after seven guards beat and restrained him. His death occurred the day after he arrived at the camp after violating parole for taking his grandmother's car for a joy ride.

One state that has gotten it right on juvenile justice is Missouri. Under the caring youth-focused leadership of Mark Steward, its former Youth Services Director, in 1983 Missouri closed all of its youth prisons and divided the state into five regions so that confined youths would be within driving distance of their homes. Each region has two facilities housing no more than 40 young people. This Department of Youth Services focuses on intensive individual counseling, academic and vocational education, and positive behavior modification. Key features of the Missouri model are its integration of mental health into all of its rehabilitation components and its comprehensive approach to treatment, which includes family therapy and counseling.

Each confined youth is brought together with nine other teens who eat, study and live together as a team. Each team of ten is under the supervision of two trained youth specialists. When a young person has a problem, s/he can call a meeting of the team to work out a solution. Academic success is emphasized and a high percentage of young people in Missouri’s Department of Youth Services facilities earn their GEDs. Missouri has dramatically reduced youth recidivism to seven percent, at a cost of nearly one-third less per youth than the cost of systems in Louisiana and Florida, which have much higher recidivism rates.

Sadly, Missouri is an exception to the bumper-sticker thinking of too many state leaders who pursue "Tough on crime," "Zero tolerance," "Lock 'em up" approaches to punish rather than address the problems of troubled youths. Increasing investments in health care, quality early childhood education, better schools and positive youth development in out-of-school time would not only increase the number of children reaching successful adulthood but increase public safety.

The last thing a young person needs is lessons in how to become a hardened criminal by exposure to adult criminal mentors in adult prisons or callous adults in juvenile "justice" systems. It's time for a change for our children and our nation's sake.

For more information on the Children's Defense Fund's America's Cradle to Prison Pipeline report, visit childrensdefense.org/cradletoprison.


Marian Wright Edelman is the founder of The Children’s Defense Fund
Criminalization Of Black Children

Slaying suspect described as ‘creepy’



Allan Robert Dickie of Maryland is charged with the August slaying of Claudia Toppin, and could face the death penalty if convicted.



Maryland teenager faces death penalty in August murder


Growing up in Maryland, he was the polite, friendly neighborhood kid. In high school, he was the unruly, black-attired outcast. In Gainesville, he was regarded as a creepy stranger, and later, a jailhouse troublemaker.

Now, at 19, at a time when many his age are toiling over college term papers or learning the ropes of their first full-time jobs, Allan Robert Dickie is facing the prospect of death by lethal injection.

In his relatively brief three-month stay at the Hall County Jail, he's built a reputation among detention officers as a difficult inmate. Deputies say he started a fire in his jail cell, and a mug shot shows he tattooed the word "IT," preceded by a four-letter obscenity, in inch-high letters on his forehead.

By the time he appeared in Hall County Superior Court on Wednesday, the jailhouse tattoo had faded some but remained visible.

Those who knew Dickie before he became a murder defendant, charged in the rape and stabbing death of a homeless woman late one August night outside a Gainesville supermarket, alternately describe him as seemingly normal and disturbingly odd.

"It's just so hard to understand," said former neighbor Michele Reed of Pasadena, Md. She has a son Dickie's age and remembers the defendant since he was in kindergarten. "I would never, out of all my son's friends, figure he would do something like this."

"He was pretty strange, but none of us expected this," said former high school classmate Shelly Neighoff.

Dickie was one of a steady stream of shabbily dressed street people who used the Hall County Library System's main downtown branch for computer access, according to library director Adrian Mixson.

Dickie began showing up at the library about two weeks before his Aug. 26 arrest, logging on to the Internet to access his account on Myspace, a popular social networking site that allows users to post personal information and communicate with others.

Dickie's user name on the site was "Chipmunk the Almighty," a reference to his high school nickname, "Chipmunk," according to Neighoff, a former classmate of Dickie's from Glenburnie, Md.

"He sent me a weird message on Myspace that I didn't want to answer," Neighoff said. She said she briefly gave Dickie a place to stay before he left Maryland about a month prior to his arrest.

"He said he was traveling the country and there was a drug reference in (the message)," Neighoff said. "He said he was with a friend trying stuff. It's weird, because I was trying to figure out how he got to Georgia. He did some kind of homeless traveling.".

Mixson, the library director, said Dickie unnerved his staffers. "They just felt he was kind of creepy," he said.

Grim discovery
At 7:15 on the morning of Aug. 26, Enrique Ochoa-Lupain arrived at the Supermercado Carillo on Pearl Nix Parkway to begin preparations for opening the store. He noticed blood spots on the ground near a loading dock and followed the drops to the back of the building, where he found the lifeless body of a black female. Her neck, head, left hand and other parts of her body were covered in stab wounds.

When Gainesville police arrived, they found perhaps the best piece of evidence they could ever want in a homicide investigation: A surveillance camera set up at the loading dock had recorded at least part of the crime. Police were able to glean from the video a solid description of their suspect, which they soon posted as a "be on the lookout" radio bulletin.

Around 11 a.m., a Hall County deputy saw Dickie walking in the area of Jesse Jewell Parkway and Branch Street. Dickie, who matched the description of the lookout, was taken into custody and driven to the Gainesville Police Department, where he was questioned, and then charged with murder.
Officials say the circumstances of the murder were particularly brutal.

The victim, 37-year-old Claudia Toppin, who had relatives in the Atlanta area, had only been in Gainesville a few days. She planned to take a bus from Gainesville to Florida, where a family member lived, according to Gainesville Police Lt. Brian Kelly.

At some point on the Aug. 25, she went to the Salvation Army shelter on Dorsey Street to inquire about a bed, Kelly said. Then she walked to the bus station on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, but was unable to purchase a ticket, Kelly said. When she returned to the shelter, there were no vacancies, he said.

Sometime after that, she crossed paths with Dickie, who authorities think she may have encountered before. They ended up at the loading dock area of the shiny new Hispanic supermarket, less than a mile from the shelter.

What followed was at least partially captured on surveillance video, but has not been fully detailed publicly by authorities. An indictment returned in October by a Hall County grand jury charges Dickie with kidnapping with bodily injury, rape, aggravated sodomy, aggravated assault, aggravated battery and murder, alleging Toppin sustained multiple stab wounds.

District Attorney Lee Darragh, when asked why he was seeking the death penalty, said the facts of the case were the primary consideration.

Outcast with a knife
Michele Reed remembers a gentle little boy who sat in her kitchen when he was in elementary school, chatty but polite.

"He was just your normal kid," said Reed, who lives two doors down from the Dickies in Pasadena, Md. "Allan was appreciative of anything and everything he was given. When he was 16, Allan would be excited that he got a new bicycle. He was a joy to have around."

Sometime during his teens, however, his life took a turn for the worse. "I heard he was kicked out of the house," Reed said. "I heard rumors he was living in the woods near my house. I went out to look for him once. Then he disappeared for a while. When he showed up again, his hair was cut really short."

Neighoff, who attended Chesapeake High School with Dickie before he dropped out in the 11th grade, recalled him as "a pretty weird kid."

"He was always kind of goofy, and he annoyed the crap out of a lot of people," she said. "He was never shy. He became sort of an outcast to a lot of people. But sometimes it was good to have him around for comic relief. He had an odd sense of humor."

Neighoff remembers going to Dickie's house, where he would practice with a band, playing bass guitar, until his parents kicked him out.

"I never asked his parents why," she said. "I know he didn't hold a job. He wasn't really doing anything. I know he smoked pot a lot. I'm assuming he was lazy and a bit of a troublemaker, and they kicked him out."

In school, Dickie would eat pencils and perform other off-the-wall, attention-grabbing stunts, said one former classmate who did not want her name used in this article. "I guess there was something really wrong with him," she said. "Everybody knew him, but he was really out there."

At the time he dropped out of Chesapeake High, he told friends he was encouraged by school administrators to leave, Neighoff said. "He said they told him that was probably the best thing for him to do," she said.

Former classmates remember Dickie's customary attire: ripped black jeans, black trench coat and black, steel-toed boots. "He took pride in those boots," she said.

Dickie also took pride in the pocket knife he kept clipped to his pants, she said. "He was always quick to show off his knife, and let you know he had one," she said. "He would just randomly pull it out and show it to people."

Jail arson, new tattoo
During the recent transfer of more than 500 inmates from the old Hall County jail to the new facility, Dickie, like some other murder defendants, was deemed high-risk and driven individually in a patrol car rather than loaded into a bus with other inmates.

On Oct. 29, prior to the move, Dickie managed to deface an electrical light switch, put the wires together to create an arc and set his jail-issued shirt on fire, Hall Sheriff's officials said.

The offense earned him additional charges of arson and interference with government property. A mug shot taken on the day of the incident shows Dickie glaring into the camera with the new, confrontational tattoo emblazoned across his forehead.

On Wednesday, Dickie appeared normal and calm as he sat with attorneys during a brief court hearing held to decide which judge would preside over his death penalty case.

The case is likely to involve defense motions questioning Dickie's sanity or mental aptitude and his criminal intent in Toppin's death.

Reed, the former neighbor who said she was "devastated" by Dickie's arrest, thinks the jailhouse antics are evidence he is "crying out for help." "I think Allan has emotional, psychological and mental problems," she said.

Defense attorneys, prosecutors and police are not commenting on Dickie or the pending case. Efforts to reach the murder victim's family have been unsuccessful.

In an e-mail, Reed wrote that her son, Nick, is distraught over his former friend's arrest. "He cannot get Allan off his mind, and neither can I," she said. "We both wish we could have done something, or that we could have seen this coming."

Friday, November 23, 2007

Convicted murderer on death row is granted a new trial


Kristen Reed Sentinel Staff Writer
November 21, 2007

A convicted murderer who has spent more than two years on death row was granted a new trial by the Florida Supreme Court today.

Roy Lee McDuffie, was convicted of killing two Deltona Dollar General store clerks on Oct. 25, 2002, and sentenced to death after a lengthy trial.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled that the trial court made errors -- not allowing a friend to testify, restricting the defense's cross-examination of two eyewitnesses and allowing the jury to hear a threatening voicemail left by the defendant -- that could have affected the outcome of the case. However, the court still believes there is enough evidence to support a conviction so it did not order an acquittal.

The State Attorney's Office said it would prepare for another trial and expects the same outcome.

Defense attorneys for McDuffie, who always believed in his innocence, were pleased with the decision.

Store clerks Janice Schneider, 39, and Dawniell Beauregard, 27, were shot and stabbed inside a small office at the back of the dollar store. Beauregard's hands and feet were bound with duct tape and one piece of the tape bore a partial palm print that matched McDuffie.

Lethal Injection to Get Supreme Test


Doubts of Humaneness Bring Case to High Court

By Darryl Fears
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 23, 2007; A03

On the cold prison gurney, Joseph Clark's eyes fluttered as he woke up from what was supposed to be his death.

"It don't work," Clark muttered to Ohio corrections officials who were preparing him for a lethal injection. They had punctured his arms 19 times in a fumbling attempt to find a vein, according to court records and news reports. The anesthesia Clark was given to ward off pain from the lethal dose of chemicals had worn off.

"Can you just give me something by mouth to end this?" Clark asked. He writhed and moaned as pancuronium bromide paralyzed him and potassium chloride stopped his heart, witnesses said.

When death penalty opponents bring arguments before the Supreme Court challenging Kentucky's method of lethal injection, they will argue that executions such as Clark's are proof that techniques used to put down the condemned are not as painless and humane as state corrections officials say. Death penalty opponents will argue that using a procedure that creates "a known risk of pain and suffering," when other alternatives are available, violates the Eighth Amendment's cruel and unusual punishment clause.

Since the high court decided to hear the case, a de facto moratorium on executions has occurred. On Nov. 15, the justices stayed the execution of Mark Dean Schwab, who was scheduled to be executed in Florida for the kidnapping, rape and murder of an 11-year-old boy.

Schawb's execution would have been the first in Florida since the state revised its lethal injection procedures after a botched execution last December. The change in procedures, which state officials say was made to lessen the chance of pain, had led state courts to allow the Schwab execution to move forward. In making their case against lethal injection, death penalty opponents may cite what they describe as botched executions, such as Clark's, which they say are often carried out by personnel who are poorly trained, even on basics such as how to find a vein, or how to insert a needle or a catheter.

Some states have allowed executioners, some with little medical training, to surgically open the arm of a prisoner when they cannot find a vein, fish out an exposed vein with string and insert a needle.

Lisa McCalmont, a consultant to the Death Penalty Clinic at the University of California at Berkeley law school who recently committed suicide, said the idea that an inmate gently dies during a lethal injection procedure may be a false one. She added, "I don't think everybody knows that two of the drugs are capable of causing excruciating pain."

State officials defend their methods of lethal injection, asserting that when carried out properly, including proper anesthesia, no pain results. Mark Dershwitz, a doctor and anesthesiology professor at the University of Massachusetts who has reviewed protocols and testified on behalf of states, said that even he has trouble inserting needles in some patients.

He added that the procedure of surgically opening a patient to find a vein is an old protocol that, as far as he knows, is no longer used in the more than three dozen states that carry out lethal injections.

"In a nutshell . . . if the protocol is implemented as written, there is only the minutest chance that an inmate could be conscious during the administration of the muscle relaxant and the potassium chloride," Dershwitz said.

Still, opponents say, lethal injections are more likely to go wrong in inexperienced hands. Lawsuits and news accounts have revealed instances of poorly screened hires and badly trained personnel.

In Missouri, Alan Doerhoff, a doctor who administered the state's lethal injections for more than a decade, admitted on the witness stand to being dyslexic and prone to mistakes.

During testimony, Doerhoff said that executions were attended by people with no medical background and that execution day was the first time that many of them had picked up a needle. He also said that the execution chamber was kept so dark to obscure witness views that executioners used flashlights to find their way around.

Missouri stuck by Doerhoff until a report by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch revealed that he was the target of nearly two dozen medical malpractice suits. He was relieved of his post in April, said Brian Hauswirth, a spokesman for the Missouri Department of Corrections.

"We still feel that [Doerhoff] did a professional job with the Department of Corrections," Hauswirth said. He said the department's director had no knowledge of Doerhoff's dyslexia until it was revealed in court. "The director decided we would not be using him for future executions."

Florida was the scene of what death penalty opponents call a terrible lethal injection in December. The execution of convicted killer Angel Diaz took twice the normal time, according to court documents citing the accounts of prison officials and witnesses.

The executioner noted in prison records that pushing the syringes that contained the anesthetic was "more difficult." The executioner used a backup line to deliver the painful pancuronium bromide without doing the same with the anesthetic.

Witnesses to the execution said Diaz showed facial movements that he should not have had if he were properly anesthetized. Minutes later, witnesses said, "he was gasping." Twenty minutes into the process, a witness said, "His mouth was wide open, his head was back . . . he almost appeared to be a fish out of water."

An autopsy of Diaz noted scorchlike marks that ran nearly the length of his left arm where the potassium chloride was delivered. Lawyers called them an indication of an agonizing death. Florida has not carried out any executions since Diaz's.

Witnesses to executions in Virginia, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Ohio have reported seeing similar grimacing and squirming by condemned men who were supposed to be out cold. Witnesses said they heard moans and watched as the prisoners' bodies seized, arched upward and convulsed before coming to rest.

Dershwitz said the witnesses were not seeing pain but rather an involuntary contraction caused by the potassium chloride, which stimulates muscle tissue as it cuts off the body's electrical impulses that generate the heartbeat. "That is a predicted effect of potassium chloride," he said.

As he watched Clark's execution in Ohio last year, Michael Manning became upset.

Manning is the brother of David Manning, whom Clark shot to death during a 1984 robbery in Toledo. He later joined Clark's relatives in denouncing how the state carried out the execution, saying, "Nobody should have to die a horrible death."

In the execution room, Clark's vein collapsed, as often happens with former drug addicts. As prison officials poked and fished for a vein, an execution that should have taken no more than 12 minutes lasted more than an hour.

After Clark's death, Ohio refined its lethal injection process, following a trend in other states where protocols were legally challenged after problem executions. Executioners in Ohio now check for a good vein as soon as a prisoner enters the death house in Lucasville, said Andrea Carson, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

Officials were also directed to not speed up executions to finish the process quickly for family members and others who watch condemned men die.

In spite of the changes, Carson said, "We maintain that our process worked the way it was supposed to."

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Inmate on death row granted another trial


Kristen Reed

Sentinel Staff Writer

November 22, 2007

Roy Lee McDuffie, who has spent more than two years on death row for killing two Dollar General store clerks, is getting a second chance.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the trial judge made mistakes that could have affected the verdict and ordered a new trial. The justices, however, think there is still enough evidence to support a conviction and would not grant an acquittal.

One of McDuffie's defense attorneys was ecstatic.

"I still believe Roy McDuffie is innocent," attorney Rob Sanders said. "I'm glad he's been able to persevere this long. Hopefully, he will be successful in his new trial."

In 2005, a jury unanimously agreed McDuffie shot and stabbed store clerks Janice Schneider, 39, and Dawniell Beauregard, 27, inside a small back office at the Deltona store on Oct. 25, 2002. Beauregard's hands and feet were bound with duct tape, and one piece bore a partial palm print linked to McDuffie.

There was no DNA, blood, fibers or other evidence tying McDuffie to the slayings.

The state argued the killings were an inside job, committed by McDuffie, the manager trainee, who had insurmountable debts. About $6,000 in cash and checks was stolen, and the women were found inside a locked store. The palm print was near the center of a long piece of tape wrapped around Beauregard's wrists.

The defense argued the state's case was circumstantial and showed the jury other explanations for McDuffie's palm print. They also presented evidence of two "suspicious" men hanging around outside the store and offered testimony that pointed to an alternative suspect: Michael Fitzgerald, a convicted armed robber, drug addict and former boyfriend of Beauregard's sister.

The sister of one victim said the news of a new trial took the wind out of her.

"I feel beat up," said Kelli Lee, Schneider's sister. "I feel like somebody has punched me in the stomach."

McDuffie and other condemned killers are granted one automatic appeal to the Florida Supreme Court. He raised 10 issues, and the court highlighted three errors in its ruling.

The justices said the trial judge should have allowed a friend to testify that he gave McDuffie about $340 shortly before the killings. The witness's name was inadvertently left off the guilt-phase witness list, and he was not allowed to take the stand.

The high court also said defense attorneys should not have been restricted in their cross-examination of two eyewitnesses. A store clerk who left earlier in the evening testified she saw two men sitting outside the store. She was not allowed to tell the jury, however, that one of the men looked like Fitzgerald and the other resembled a man who had recently robbed a bank in the same shopping center.

The last error was allowing the jury to hear a threatening voice mail McDuffie had left for an attorney who had filed an eviction suit against him. The court said the "vulgar" message was irrelevant and highly prejudicial.

Assistant State Attorney Colleen Taylor said her office was reviewing the ruling and would prepare for a new trial as soon as possible.

"Of course we're disappointed in the decision. We're disappointed for the families," she said.

Lee, who said she was finally starting to block out some of the details and crime-scene photographs from the first trial, said she would be in court every day, again.




Kristen Reed can be reached at 386-851-7924 or kreed@orlandosentinel.com.

Crist picks prosecutor to fill open judge seat


Hodges replaces Angel, but must seek re-election in '08

BY MABEL PEREZ
STAR-BANNER


OCALA - A prosecutor in Marion County has been tapped to fill Judge Carven Angel's position, which is scheduled to end Nov. 30.

Gov. Charlie Crist appointed Assistant State Attorney Bob Hodges to replace Angel. Hodges is completing Angel's unfinished term and would have to run for re-election in 2008.

"I'm very happy. I'm very excited about the prospect," Hodges said in a phone interview from his home Wednesday evening.

Hodges, 42, has been employed by the 5th Circuit State Attorney since 1990. He said he was was ready to take all he learned at the State Attorney's Office and move on in a different role and view things from a "neutral perspective."

The new judge said he feels he can take on this challenge, citing his track record of being fair.

"I've always approached it with fairness in mind and fairness to all the parties involved," he said.
Chief Assistant State Attorney Ric Ridgway said Hodges will be missed.

"Bob's one of our homicide lawyers. He handles murder cases, so he's going to be very difficult to replace. He's a very talented lawyer. I'm happy for him but it's going to be a great loss for us," Ridgway said.

Assistant State Attorney Rock Hooker praised his co-worker.

"He's very intelligent and even-tempered. I think he'll make a great judge," Hooker said.

In a news release, Crist described Hodges as a seasoned lawyer and called him "dynamic."

"Robert's extensive trial court experience and familiarity with the circuit will make him a dynamic and effective judge," said Crist. "His established reputation for fairness and honesty among his peers demonstrate his integrity and character. Robert's commitment to public service will make him an asset to the bench, and I appreciate his willingness to serve."

Hodges has been involved in several legal committees. In 2000, he joined the State Child Abuse Death Review Committee and was later appointed by the Secretary of Health to represent Florida Prosecuting Attorney's Association. Hodges is a graduate of the University of South Florida and a graduate of the University of Florida College of Law.

Hodges has handled several high-profile cases, including the Coreyon Graham case. In 2006, 5-year-old Coreyon died at Munroe Regional Medical Center. Months later the boy's father, Richard Crawford, 33, was captured in Pennsylvania and charged with first-degree murder for beating Coreyon to death with a belt.

In January, Hodges was scheduled to take The Villages slaying of Diana Miller to trial with State Attorney Brad King. Miller was killed during an alleged home robbery and her husband, James Miller, was shot in the head. The couple's daughter, Sheila Miller, was allegedly kidnapped during the robbery.

Hodges also handled the William Kopsho death penalty case with Assistant State Attorney Anthony Tatti. Kopsho was convicted of murdering his estranged wife and was sentenced to death in 2005, but the conviction was overturned by the Florida Supreme Court because of a juror issue.

In other court news, Circuit Judge Brian D. Lambert is among the nominees to fill a vacancy at the 5th District Court of Appeal. Five other area judges have been nominated for the position left by the retirement of Appellate Judge Emerson R. Thompson Jr.

Mabel Perez can be reached at mabel.perez@starbanner.com or 352-867-4106.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Survivor of Death Row


By John Brummett

Juan Melendez, who grew up in Puerto Rico and had done itinerant fruit-picking in Florida, learned English during 18 years on Death Row. He says his teachers were other condemned men. He says they essentially commanded him to learn to communicate with them.

He speaks the language well enough now to be an accomplished public speaker. He travels the country telling audiences why he shouldn't have received the death penalty, how he finally got freed and that the death penalty is beyond fixing.

Last week he spoke to about 125 people at the annual dinner of the Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. The group soon will ask Gov. Mike Beebe - in futility, I suspect - to impose a moratorium on executions.

When Melendez was convicted in 1984 of killing a cosmetology school owner, he knew maybe four English words, and three of them, he says, were curse words. So he sat in a courtroom lacking much understanding of what all those well-attired people and important-looking people were talking about.

The jury was being kept a bit in the dark, too, such as to the fact that another man had confessed to the murder. A man seen fleeing the cosmetology school was not pursued, and police admitted they botched the crime scene.

Authorities preferred to go after the riper target of this Juan Melendez, in spite of the absence of a single shred of physical evidence. It had two witnesses, both dubious. Melendez will admit to hanging with a bad crowd and doing petty crimes.

That one of the two witnesses aspired to be a police informant and was getting spared jail time in exchange for his testimony - well, juries don't get advised of that kind of thing. That would be prejudicial to the prosecution, you see. Never mind that it might be helpful to the man whose day in court it supposedly actually is.

"I thought it was just a procedure," Melendez, 32 at the time of that trial, said in an interview before his speech last week. He recalls sitting there at the defense table assuming he couldn't be in any real trouble, since he didn't kill anybody and the elaborate exercise unfolding before him surely would come to that conclusion.

But then he could understand one thing - the photographs of the victims that were shown the jurors. This was a brutal crime, with a slit throat, three bullet wounds and a pool of blood.

Powerful emotion is one of the fatal flaws in the death penalty. A reasonable doubt that might be applied to a lesser crime becomes less a viable option to a juror determined to try to fashion some form of justice out of such horror.

Then you have the problems with witnesses, since they are human beings possessed of the usual and varying frailties. Some are simply mistaken. Some are simply liars. Some are simply looking for a deal.

Next comes the politically elected prosecutor, whose career perhaps rests on his landing a conviction, since the case is likely his most high-profile, and who is inclined to make his bed with whatever excuses for witnesses he can find.

Throw in the uneven pattern of prosecution - from one jurisdiction to the next, from one race to the other and from one economic class to the other.

When, at 50, Melendez got freed, it was because anti-death penalty legal groups had gained him a new trial. When required to try Melendez anew, the prosecution had no case at all. The confessor had long since died. The old witnesses' stories weren't the same as before. There remained no physical evidence.

This is Melendez' most thoughtful point: Even if a man did the crime, the man we kill is never the man we convicted. Years on Death Row, with only four hours a week spent out in the yard, will change you.

The underlying question - beyond the haunting one of whether we might be putting in the grave an innocent man - is what we're really accomplishing by killing him even if he did it.



-------

John Brummett is a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock. His e-mail address is jbrummett@arkansasnews.com; his telephone number is (501) 374-0699.

Psychiatric overhaul urged


Gov. Charlie Crist and the chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court called for a major overhaul of the state's mental health system on Wednesday to better address the needs of the severely mentally ill.

Crist and Chief Justice Fred Lewis released a 170-page report that lays out an ambitious plan to help the mentally ill who end up in jails and prisons because they haven't received the treatment they need.

Florida leaders say it's time to change the system to ensure that the mentally ill get the help they need before they get in trouble with the law and wind up incarcerated. Not only will it help the troubled, it will save money and better protect the public.

The report, sponsored by the Supreme Court, envisions using money now spent on mental health treatment for prisoners deemed incompetent to stand trial. Instead, those individuals would be targeted for intensive community-based mental health treatment before they get arrested.

Money for the project would also come from Medicaid, which doesn't cover people in institutions but can pay for treatment before they're institutionalized.

"What we're doing is focusing on this very small group of people who are costing the state a ton of money and are recycling through the criminal justice system," said Miami-Dade County Judge Steven Leifman, chairman of the Supreme Court's mental health subcommittee. "About 80 percent of those people can live comfortably and safely in the community."

Leifman said the project will need about $20-million in general revenue to get started, but after that, it will be able to sustain itself with Medicaid money and the $48-million now being used for the extra forensic mental health beds that he says will no longer be needed.

"You need to have the money up front to develop a system of care for them to move them into the community," he said. "We have people in there on third-degree felonies that don't have to be there."

Leifman said the plan eventually will save money. The state currently spends $250-million per year on 1,700 beds for mentally ill inmates. At this rate, the state will be spending $500-million per year by 2015.

That money is designed to restore competency to inmates so they can be tried for their crimes and then sent to jail or prison, where they continue to cost the state money.

Leifman said treating mentally sick people earlier will prevent them from becoming high-cost inmates.

Leifman led a subcommittee that studied the state's mental health system after the state Department of Children and Families found itself overburdened with the mentally ill. It got to the point the agency couldn't get inmates into treatment beds within the 15 days required by state law. In some cases, inmates languished in jails for months, straining jail guards' resources and, in some, cases harming themselves.

Hillsborough County sued the DCF in an effort to get the agency to follow the law.

Pinellas Circuit Judge Crockett Farnell threatened to fine and even jail then-DCF Secretary Lucy Hadi if she didn't follow the law.

Eventually the Legislative Budget Commission called a special meeting and allocated nearly $17-million to create more beds and $48-million annually to cover the costs.

But the Supreme Court recognized that wasn't the ultimate solution and directed a mental health subcommittee, led by Leifman, to study the issue and seek solutions.

"It's extremely positive, and it's recognizing the impact mental health issues are having on the criminal justice system," said Pinellas-Pasco Public Defender Bob Dillinger, who pushed for the DCF to
address the inmate issue last year. "It can be done in a way that eventually saves a ton of money."

But the push to revamp how Florida deals with the mentally ill is coming during one of the worst economic downturns for the state in more than a decade.

Even Chief Justice Lewis acknowledged the challenge of Florida's budget situation on Wednesday. "Today I hope we are going to discuss plans and programs and ideas that may be implemented without creating unrealistic expectations," he said.

Crist had not reviewed all the recommendations included in the report, but said that the budget situation won't keep him from pushing for changes in the mental health system.

"We have some difficult times, but my heart is there," Crist said.

Rep. Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican and chairman of the House committee that deals with mental-health legislation, said lawmakers would likely consider the recommendations during the 2008 session. He said that despite bad financial times it was apparent to him that the current "system is broken."

"Even in a bad economic year, it may well be worth the fight," Galvano said.

Times staff writer Chris Tisch contributed to this report.