Monday, June 2, 2008

Convicted killer back in court for death sentence appeal

By JAY STAPLETON Staff writer

DAYTONA BEACH -- A condemned killer who had his mouth taped shut during his 2004 trial behaved himself in court Friday, when he appeared with another effort to avoid the death penalty.

Richard England, 36, who was sentenced to die for the 2001 beating death of Howard Wetherell in Daytona Beach, wants a new trial because he claims his attorneys the first time around were ineffective.

Wetherell, 71, a Daytona Beach Planning Board member, died from a broken neck after he was repeatedly beaten with a fire poker during a robbery in his apartment.

Michael Douglas Jackson, who had moved in with Wetherell months before, is now serving a life sentence for his role in the killing. Recanting earlier statements, Jackson testified at trial he was the killer.

The slaying was described as "horrible, brutal, bone-crushing," by Circuit Judge S. James Foxman, who ordered England's mouth duct-taped shut during closing arguments because of the defendant's outbursts.

In 2006, the Florida Supreme Court affirmed England's conviction and death sentence after reviewing several claims, including England's gripe that he was denied a fair sentencing hearing because of the gagging.

In his latest appeal effort in Circuit Court, England raises a number of issues, including the claim that his trial attorneys didn't do a good job developing mental health factors during the penalty phase.

England also claims a jailhouse snitch who testified for the state has additional information about the case not yet heard.

Circuit Judge James Clayton will preside over an evidentiary hearing Aug. 20 in DeLand.

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