Thursday, March 13, 2008

Death Row inmate gets hearing today

By Megan V. Winslow

Thursday, March 6, 2008

STUART — As they waited for the courtroom to open Thursday, Frances Julia Slater's family watched 17 cardboard boxes pass by on a cart and through the double doors.

For almost 26 years, the family has watched those boxes of paperwork grow in number, as stack after stack of motions were filed to keep one of Slater's killers, J.B. "Pig" Parker, from lethal injection or the electric chair.

Today, the 45-year-old Death Row inmate and former Fort Pierce resident will try once again to stop his execution at a hearing to determine whether his attorney at a 2000 sentencing hearing failed to properly represent him.

This latest hearing was scheduled to begin Thursday but Circuit Judge Gary L. Sweet postponed it when Parker's attorney, Jo Ann Barone, requested an extra day so defense investigators could speak with their client.

Slater was just two days shy of 19 when four bored fruit pickers robbed the Stuart convenience store where she was working alone April 27, 1982, and abducted her. Afraid Slater would later identify them, the men drove her west of Stuart on State Road 76 where according to testimony John Earl Bush, 23, stabbed her in the stomach and Parker, 19, shot her in the back of the head.

When a man on a tractor found Slater's body about 14 hours later, her murder became a nationwide fixation partly because the media incorrectly labeled her as the heiress to boat motor magnate Ralph Evinrude and singer Frances Langford. Slater is the late couple's step-granddaughter.

Authorities arrested Parker, Bush and 25-year-old Terry Wayne "Bo Gator" Johnson and 23-year-old Alphonso Cave after linking a traffic stop of Bush's 1974 Buick the day of the murder with the crime.

The four men were eventually convicted and Parker, Cave and Bush were sentenced to death. Johnson received a life sentence because evidence indicated he was drunk at the time of the murder and did not know what was happening. Bush was executed in 1996 and Cave, like Parker, has continued to appeal.

In 1998, the Florida Supreme Court ruled Parker deserved another sentencing hearing to include testimony indicating Cave was the one who shot Slater. But in 2000, Circuit Judge Dwight Geiger determined it didn't matter if Parker pulled the trigger because of his participation in the crime.

The only benefit Parker got from the resentencing hearing was an opportunity to claim attorney David Lamos was ineffective.

In a 2006 postconviction motion, Parker makes a slew of allegations against Lamos including that he failed to suppress a May 7, 1982, statement Parker made to detectives.

Sweet is expected to hear those allegations today and Tuesday.

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