Friday, August 15, 2008

Judge rejects killer's request for evidentiary hearing

A judge today rejected convicted killer Richard Henyard's request to set aside his death sentence.

The ruling by Lake Circuit Judge Mark J. Hill will most likely be appealed immediately by Mark Gruber and Daphney Branham, lawyers with the Capital Collateral Regional Counsel, the state-funded attorneys who represent Florida's Death-Row inmates.

Henyard, 34, is set to die by lethal injection Sept. 23 for the abduction and murders of 7-year-old Jamilya Lewis and her 3-year-old sister Jasmine. Henyard also is convicted of abducting, raping and attempting to kill the girls' mother, Dorothy.

With vivid and chilling details, the 19-page ruling recounts Henyard's crimes and finds no merit in "newly discovered evidence," dubious testimony of Jason Nawara, another convicted Lake County killer who suggests Henyard did not fire the shots that killed the girls. (Nawara now says Henyard's co-defendant, Alfonza Smalls, boasted about being the "killa.")

For Nawara's testimony to be persuasive, Henyard would have to be considered a "relatively minor" participant in the crimes of Jan. 30, 1993, which are among the worst to have been documented in Lake County.

Hill's ruling - sent today to the Florida Supreme Court - declares that to be impossible.

"Mr. Henyard hatched the diabolical plan," the judge's order reads. "Mr. Henyard bragged about his intentions days before he event. Mr. Henyard chose the location to carry out his malignant plan. Mr. Henyard drove the car with the abducted family. Mr. Henyard was the first to rape Ms. Lewis. Mr. Henyard shot Ms. Lewis repeatedly, leaving her for dead. Mr. Henyard continued to drive the car and then pulled over and lifted the 3-year-old out of the car. Mr. Henyard was four feet from the victims when bullets entered their bodies."

Henyard and Smalls carjacked Ms. Lewis and her daughters from the parking lot of a Eustis grocery store because Henyard needed a vehicle to drive to a night club in Orlando and to visit his father in South Florida.

Smalls, who was 14 at the time - an age that made him ineligible for the death penalty, is serving life in prison. He and Nawara, who raped and murdered his stepsister, had been podmates in a juvenile wing of the county jail.

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