Saturday, April 17, 2010

Death row resident's appeal is denied by state high court - Claimed testimony in 1984 trial tainted

A convicted murderer on death row won't get a new trial despite claims a witness and state attorney investigator had a sexual relationship, a witness recanted testimony and those handling his case are biased against him.

Cary Michael Lambrix, 50, asked for a new trial and raised other concerns, but Florida Supreme Court justices Thursday denied his claims in a 27-page opinion. Lambrix was convicted in 1984 of killing 19-year-old Alisha Bryant and 35-year-old Lawrence Lamberson in Glades County after luring them to his trailer.

Lambrix's hopes for a new trial rested partially on testimony from his girlfriend at the time of the murders, Frances Ottinger, who said she had a one-time sexual encounter with former state attorney's office investigator Robert Daniels during one of Lambrix's trials in 1983 or 1984. Daniels denied the sexual encounter and Ottinger, now Frances Smith, testified at a hearing in recent years she couldn't say when and where the encounter happened. The Supreme Court, as well as a lower court, found the encounter never happened.

Witness Deborah Hanzel testified in both of Lambrix's trials about what the defendant said after the murders. During post-conviction proceedings in 1998, Hanzel testified Lambrix never admitted to killing Bryant and Lamberson. But justices said Hanzel's testimony probably wouldn't have changed the outcome of his trial and denied his claim on that point.

They also denied claims the trial court didn't allow him a full and fair hearing, that there was judicial bias during retrial proceedings and that Lambrix should get a new trial.

His attorney, Williams Dennis of Fort Lauderdale, was unavailable for comment.

State Attorney Steve Russell said that, although Lambrix will be able to bring his case to the federal courts, he hopes closure is soon.

"I think capital litigation is frustrating to victims' families and prosecutors alike," he said. "While I believe in a thorough right to appeal, 25-plus years in reviewing a case, in my mind, is normally excessive."


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