Marek death appeal: Condemned man fights for his life in Broward court
Tonya Alanez South Florida Sun-Sentinel
7:17 PM EDT, May 7, 2009
Death Row inmate John Richard Marek, flanked by his lawyers Linda McDermott and Martin McClain, appeared in Broward Circuit Judge Peter Weinstein's courtroom Thursday. (SUN SENTINEL, LOU TOMAN / May 7, 2009)
FORT LAUDERDALE - In a last-minute bid to escape the executioner's needle, condemned man John Richard Marek was back in a Broward courtroom Thursday, with his lawyers claiming he was wrongly convicted and sent to Death Row a quarter-century ago.
Unless a judge or the governor intervenes, Marek will be executed by lethal injection at 6 p.m. May 13 inside Florida State Prison near Starke.
In 1984, Marek was convicted of raping, burning, kicking, dragging and fatally strangling the director of business affairs at Barry University. The naked, bruised body of Adella Simmons, 47, was found in a lifeguard shack on Dania Beach.
Marek's appellate attorney, Martin McClain, contends his client's co-defendant, Raymond Wigley, was the actual murderer.
To that end, McClain on Thursday appeared in Broward Circuit Court and offered three former prison mates of Wigley's who claimed Wigley separately confessed to them that he was the one who strangled Simmons with a handkerchief.
Arguing on behalf of the state of Florida, Carolyn Snurkowsi of the Attorney General's Office rejected the testimony as "rank hearsay coming very late in the day."
Large and lethargic, Marek, 47, declined himself to testify. Wearing a bright orange jumpsuit and with his wrists padlocked to chains around his waist, he dozed off frequently through the hearing that may decide whether he lives or dies.
Broward Circuit Judge Peter Weinstein, who heard the case, said he would issue his ruling Friday.
This is the third time Marek has been scheduled for execution. During past appeals, his case has gone to the Florida Supreme Court six times and to the U.S. Supreme Court at least once.
McClain said he'd only recently located the three witnesses who prove his client is not a killer.
Wigley, Marek's co-defendant, had confessed to kidnapping, raping and beating Simmons, but not to the murder.
At a separate trial, he received a life sentence for his acts. He was later killed in prison by another inmate.
From the witness stand, Michael Conley said Wigley described how he and Marek met the victim on Florida's Turnpike, gave her a ride and repeatedly raped and beat her.
Wigley tearfully confessed to the strangulation, Conley said, and expressed guilt about Marek ending up on Death Row.
"He was crying when he told me that, so I tended to believe him," said Conley, of Waterville, Maine. "Or he was a heck of an actor."
Weinstein's ruling will be his opinion to the Florida Supreme Court as to whether Marek should be granted another stay of execution.
It will then be up to the state's highest court to decide whether to grant a stay and possibly order a new trial, a new sentencing or downgrade Marek's sentence to life in prison.
McClain said he also intends to appeal to Gov. Charlie Crist for intervention. Crist signed Marek's death warrant last month.
Tonya Alanez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 954-356-4542.