Update 10/20/15: Our U.S. Supreme Court Justices have a great time of time off due to a short session – October to early July, at the latest – that’s peppered by recesses. They have assistants on the job, and they are well-compensated enough to afford domestic assistance to avoid household chores. In all the free time available to them, our justices should know everything there is to know about crime and punishment as disparately addressed by our 50 states. What Justice Anthony Kennedy is asking NOW is what every Justice should have asked when William “Tommy” Zeigler’s case came before them, instead of declining to address the case.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, the probable swing vote here and possibly for all eternity, remains conspicuously silent throughout the morning, appearing listless and bored. So everyone’s head snaps up when he asks his first question.
“You’re saying that it is possible,” Kennedy proceeds cautiously “that under Florida law, the jury would not find the existence of an aggravating factor,” but “the judge could then proceed to find an aggravating factor and impose the death penalty?”
On May 10th, I wrote that exonerations indicated that hundreds of judges and justices need to prosecuted nationwide … that a couple of token arrests for misconduct won’t fix anything. What Ray McEachern describes below – Reginald Whitehead’s failure to recuse himself to avoid the appearance of bias – is a historically systemic, not singular, behavior in Florida’s 9th judicial circuit … the very first judge William “Tommy” Zeigler encountered should have recused himself, too.
Tommy came into conflict with Maurice Paul when each served as a character witness for opposing parties. With Tommy’s assistance, minority business owner Andrew James prevailed and was able to keep his bar. This did not sit well with Paul, or any other Central Florida racist.
Not only did Paul fail to recuse himself from Tommy’s case, he set aside the jury’s recommendation for a life sentence, and imposed a death sentence … just as he had bragged he would – pretrial – within the earshot of Ray McEachern’s brother, Leigh.
Tommy’s oft-told story must be told so very often that every Florida judge and justice involved begins to fear for his or her personal freedoms, i.e.; Judge Belvin Perry, who was content with Whitehead’s potential bias against Tommy, who chaired the sham Florida Innocence Commission, who presided over the Casey Anthony circus, who – as a former prosecutor for the 9th – knew that his circuit used discredited dog handler John Preston and should have kept their hands off of Gary Bennett’s 18th judicial circuit case (which Jeff Ashton sewed to Tommy’s via falsely accusing both men of homosexuality).
Wayward prosecutors would have a hell of a time pulling off frame-ups and cover-ups without the assistance of wayward judges and justices.
And Florida’s wayward judges and justices are sleeping like babies, knowing that Governor Scott is laboring to destroy evidence in many clouded capital cases the only way that’s lawful … post-execution. Three executions are currently scheduled.
A portrayal of Paul’s involvement with Tommy can be found here – http://freetommyz.com/the_trial
What Florida judges pretend to deliver in upstanding behaviors can be found here – http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/ethics/index.shtml
From: “Ray McEachern” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: May 12, 2013 2:03:22 PM EDT
Subject: Zeigler’s Supreme Court Reply Suggests Circuit Judge Should Recuse
In December 2012, Judge Reginald Whitehead of Orlando denied a petition of a man on Florida’s death row for 37 years for an evidentiary hearing based on evidence the state had lied at trial about the existence of a material witness. That denial is now on appeal before the Florida Supreme Court. In their May 6, 2013, reply to the state’s opposition to his request to have the petition remanded to the circuit court, Zeigler’s pro bono defense team argues that settled law requires the court to assume that the facts presented in the petition for the evidentiary hearing must be accepted until the hearing judge can determine their veracity at the hearing. In a footnote at the bottom of page 16 of the reply, Zeigler says this: “If the circuit court’s ruling on “falsity” is read as a predetermination of the issue without having heard the evidence, then the currently assigned judge should consider whether he should continue to hear the issue on remand.”
For reasons that have never been explained, Circuit Judge Reginald Whitehead took over the case in 2004 after Judge Grincewicz had granted a demand for DNA testing in 2001. The results of the testing proved that blood on Zeigler’s shirt did not come from Zeigler’s father-in-law, one of four people found dead in the Zeigler furniture store in Winter Garden along with Zeigler himself, who was shot through the stomach but survived. DNA established that the blood came from another man, Charlie Mays, also among the dead, whom Zeigler claimed was one of a band of robbers who attacked him in his darkened store on Christmas Eve, 1975. Mays’ pants legs were also soaked with blood – from Zeigler’s father-in-law, Perry Edwards, which would have seemed to have proved that Mays was in the store when Edwards was killed. The state had claimed that Mays had been lured into the store as much as an hour after Zeigler had killed Edwards to blame Mays for the murders.
A reporter for the Orlando Sentinel pointed out in 2009 that Judge Whitehead was married to a person who was then an Assistant State Attorney working under the prosecutor who had opposed DNA testing for Zeigler over many years. Judge Whitehead’s wife went into private practice after the issue was raised, but the issue of whether an undisclosed marital bond presents ethical concerns in a high profile case such as Zeigler has never been determined.
The link below is to the defense reply that contains the above quote. The same web site contains many of the relevant petitions and state responses as well as the closing arguments at the trial in 1976. Linked here is also a letter from Chief Judge Belvin Perry denying a request to have Judge Whitehead reassisgned in 2010.