Jul 1, 2009 5:29 pm US/Eastern
Attorney To Justices: Richard Marek Not A Killer
TALLAHASSEE (CBS4) ―
The Florida Supreme Court heard from the attorney for John Marek, seen here.
The man facing death for the 1983 kidnapping, rape and murder of a Broward woman should be spared, his attorney argued Wednesday, because he didn't kill the woman. The lawyer for Richard John Marek told the Florida Supreme Court that Marek's co-defendent was the actual killer, and urged his client not face death.
The justices previously stayed Marek's scheduled May 13 execution so a new trial judge could hear his appeal, which includes the argument he should get life in prison — the same sentence as co-defendant Raymond Wigley.
Marek, 47, was convicted of the June 1983 kidnapping, rape and strangulation of Adella Marie Simmons, whose body was found in a lifeguard stand on a Broward County beach.
Wigley, who was killed in prison by another inmate in 2000, had driven from Texas to Florida with Marek. They picked up the victim, a 45-year-old administrator at Barry University, on Florida's Turnpike where her car had broken down.
Each claimed the other had killed the woman. Both were separately convicted of first-degree murder but received different sentences.
Marek's appeal is based on new testimony from six witnesses who had been in prison with Wigley.
They said Wigley had confessed in conversations they either had with him or overheard. One witness said Wigley told him he strangled Simmons so she couldn't identify him after he had raped her.
Marek's lawyer, Martin McClain, told the justices the testimony raised enough doubt to require a reduced sentence even if insufficient to prove which man was the killer.
"If it's 50-50 they should get the same sentence," McClain said. "It should be a life sentence for both of them."
The new trial judge rejected that argument June 19.
Assistant Attorney General Carolyn Snurkowski told the justices that other evidence showed Marek was the killer. She got some help from Justice Charles Canady, who reminded her about psychological evidence that portrayed Wigley as a follower rather than a leader and Marek as a dominant personality.
Snurkowski agreed, saying a mental health expert concluded "Wigley was a wimp."
Some of the other justices appeared to have a harder time with the issue.
Justice R. Fred Lewis told Snurkowksi he found McClain's argument compelling. She replied that Wigley's statements in prison were just bragging to make himself look tough.
Snurkowski also argued Marek deserved death no matter who killed Simmons because he was the mastermind.
"It was Marek who did all the talking" when police questioned them, she said.
McClain, though, told the justices there was no evidence either man had planned to kill Simmons when they had picked her up.
The justices did not immediately rule.
McClain also asked for a new trial but later acknowledged he had little hope the high court would overturn Marek's conviction.