Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Convicted murderer's appeal: Juror favored death penalty

By Michael Peltier

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

TALLAHASSEE — Convicted killer Paul Evans should not be put to death because a juror involved in the case was predestined to invoke the death penalty, Evans' attorney told the Florida Supreme Court on Monday.

An attorney for Evans, sentenced to death for the 1991 murder-for-hire killing of Alan Pfeiffer, asked the court to throw out the death penalty because his trial attorney erred in allowing a juror who told officials she would likely invoke the death penalty if Evans was found guilty.

"The juror said she was not going to follow the laws in terms of the death penalty," said Suzanne Myers Keffer, Evans' attorney.

When asked, the juror said she was a "nine on a scale of 10" to invoke the death penalty, Keffer said.

Justices, however, were skeptical, saying the veteran trial lawyer assigned to Evans' case, Assistant Public Defender Mark Harllee, made decisions based on the best interests of his client.

"What you're asking us is to micromanage the jury selection process," said justice Barbara Pariente.

Monday's court date was the latest chapter in a 17-year saga.

Evans entered the mobile home of Alan Pfeiffer shortly before 9 p.m. March 22, 1991, and shot him three times. The murder, the jury ruled, was part of a conspiracy launched by Connie Pfeiffer to kill her abusive husband and collect a $120,000 life insurance payout.

During his unsuccessful direct appeal in 2001, Evans' attorney Gary Caldwell tried to poke holes in the state case by saying Connie Pfeiffer may have instead pulled the trigger hours later, killing her estranged husband in a conspiracy that would not be unraveled for six years. Connie Pfeiffer is serving life in prison.

The conspirators' alibi, which included being seen at a local fair the night of the shooting, was not unraveled until 1997, when law-enforcement officials convinced conspirator Sara Thomas to come forward.

Evans, 19 at the time of the murder, was sentenced to death in June 1999 by a 9-3 vote. He is being held at the Union Correctional Institution in Raiford.

The high court made no ruling Monday.

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