Sunday, September 6, 2009

Killer asks state Supreme Court to run tests he claims would exonerate him

Exonerated - Juan Melendez and his lawyer McClain

By Jane Musgrave

The Palm Beach Post

9:06 PM EDT, September 3, 2009

A 53-year-old man who has spent more than half of his life on Death Row for one of the bloodiest murders in Palm Beach County history today tried to persuade the Florida Supreme Court to give him one more chance to prove his innocence.

In a 30-minute hearing, an attorney representing Paul Scott argued that DNA testing should be done of blood left at the scene of the brutal 1978 beating death of Boca Raton resident James Alessi.

Justices appeared unimpressed with arguments made by attorney D. Todd Doss.

Like Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge Lucy Brown, who rejected Scott's request in 2006, the justices indicated that they believed the results of such tests would be meaningless.

"I'm having a hard time understanding how this would make any difference and would establish your client's innocence," said Justice Charles Canady. "It's a 'So what?' " said Justice R. Fred Lewis. "It's tested and it's his or it's not, so what?"

Scott, who has offered various accounts of his involvement in the murder, has never denied being in the house. Further, he has admitted hitting Alessi, with a flower pot, a vase and a kitchen chair. But, he claims Alessi was alive when he ran out. His accomplice, Richard Kondian, delivered the fatal blows with a champagne bottle, he claims.

While the champagne bottle was never found, a circle of blood on the floor could have been from the bottle. If only Alessi's or Kondian's blood was found, it would bolster Scott's claims that he didn't kill Alessi, Doss said.

Assistant Attorney General Celia Terenzio countered that it wouldn't overcome other evidence that proved Scott was involved in the murder.

Scott has launched numerous appeals and drummed up support from a varied cast of characters since he was convicted 30 years ago. Bob Pauley, a Palm Beach County school teacher, wrote a song and book about Scott's innocence. Sister Helen Prejean, whose fight on behalf of a Louisiana Death Row inmate was made into the 1995 Academy Award-winning movie Dead Man Walking, wrote a letter urging Scott's release.

Even Kondian's attorney, noted local defense attorney David Roth, took the unusual step of appealing for clemency for Scott.

Kondian, who claimed he killed Alessi because he tried to sexually assault him, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 45 years in prison. He was released 14 years later in 1994.

"I felt very strongly that the disparity in the sentencing was horribly unjust," Roth said earlier this year.

Still, Alessi's parents, who live in Lighthouse Point, have said Scott deserves no mercy. Just because Kondian got lucky, doesn't mean Scott should be spared, his father Carmen Alessi has said.

"I want him fried," he said earlier this year.

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