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Miami Herald Staff Writers

The Florida Department of Corrections has identified the nine employees at Florida State Prison who have been suspended in connection with the death of Death Row inmate Frank Valdez:

Capt. Timothy Alvin Thornton, 33, with the agency for 14 years

Sgt. Montrez Lazort Lucas, 30, with the agency nine years

Sgt. Charles Austin Brown, 25, with the agency for six years

Sgt. Andrew William Lewis, 28, with the agency nine years

Sgt. Jason Patrick Griffis, 26, with the agency for six years

Sgt. Robert William Sauls, 36, with the agency for 15 years

Correctional Officer Dewey Marce Beck, 51, with the agency for four years

Correctional Officer Donald Michael Stanford, 51, with the agency for nine years

Correctional Officer Raymon C. Hanson, 30, with the agency for three years

In pursuit of a murderer's murderer, investigators say the answer to who killed Death Row inmate Frank Valdez will turn on cracking the loyalty of a close-knit circle of prison guards to find out which ones beat him to death, and which simply watched. "We're talking about a homicide, a murder," said Tim Moore, Commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. "I hope those individuals involved will just, in the quietness of their own minds, decide: 'Look. Do I want to be a defendant in a murder trial, or do I want to be a witness in a murder trial?'

"I hope they will step up and do the right thing."

Agents of the FDLE, handling a murder investigation formally announced Wednesday, have searched the homes of seven of the nine Florida State Prison guards placed on leave with pay since the death of Valdez, 36, on Saturday. The FDLE said it retrieved "items significant to the criminal case." This includes clothing and boots and prison records from one guard's home. Officially, all that the FDLE will say about the circumstances surrounding Valdez's death in "X-Wing" -- the cells where the hardest-core convicts are held -- is that a sealed medical examiner's report "supports FDLE's beliefs that Valdez was beaten to death."

Not a murder, attorney says

Valdez died some time after officers removed him from his cell by force. But Bill Johnson, an attorney for the Police Benevolent Association who is representing the guards, said there was no murder on Death Row.

There was a brawl, he allows -- a violent confrontation as shielded prison guards removed a recalcitrant Valdez from his cell Saturday. But he said the guards filed reports later that day documenting their needed "use of force." And, he added, that included mentioning that they heard his ribs cracking as two of them performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

"He was not an angel," Johnson said of Valdez. "But he did not deserve to be murdered. And I don't think he was murdered.

"Our guys have been up front from the start and reported the injuries. We fully expected the autopsy to show injuries," Johnson said. "There was no attempt to cover up anything."

Rod Smith, the Gainesville-based state attorney overseeing any prosecution, called portions of the guards' stories "implausible, if not preposterous." Smith said: "The death that was inflicted in this case is a beating, and it is a brutal beating."

"It's a hate crime," said Wanda Eads Valdez of West Palm Beach, who married the confined convict in 1994 -- Florida's first Death Row wedding. "I knew from the start he was beaten to death ... It's just devastating."

The state hasn't publicly singled out any suspects among the nine sidelined guards, whose prison experience ranges from three to 15 years.

The senior officer in the group, Capt. Timothy A. Thornton, 33, a 14-year veteran of the Department of Corrections, declined to comment on the Valdez investigation Wednesday.

"I'm under counsel," said Thornton, reached at his home in tarke. "I wish I could, but I can't answer any questions ... I'm sorry."

Thornton has an arrest record of his own. He was charged with aggravated battery in Bradford County in March 1986, as he was starting work as a prison guard, state records show. His brother and another man had a fight at a bar where Thornton worked as a doorman. He tried to break it up. Scott Petty, 24, suffered a broken jaw and ribs. The case was dropped when Petty dropped charges, records indicate.

State investigates vigorously

Wednesday, more than a dozen FDLE agents were encamped at Florida State Prison investigating the death of Valdez, who was sentenced to the electric chair for the 1987 shooting of a guard from Glades Correctional Institution.

Sometime after lunch Saturday, a guard attempted to remove Valdez from his cell on X-Wing. Valdez refused, Johnson says, and resisted violently.

The inmate was sprayed with chemicals, and a pepper-spray grenade was tossed into his cell. When the grenade didn't detonate, Valdez used the canister in one hand and a knife-like pin from the grenade in the other to attack the five-guard extraction team that entered his cell with a shield and electric prod.

They fought, Johnson says, and Valdez was restrained.

Led to the prison infirmary, Valdez was examined. Johnson believes a nurse, not a doctor, checked the convict, but the Department of Corrections will not comment and the medical office at Florida State Prison isn't saying.

Valdez was returned to another cell on X-Wing, Johnson says, where he thrashed around and threw himself to the floor.

Guards monitoring him in that cell found him lying on the floor, Johnson says, and attempted to revive him. The FDLE says Valdez was dead by 3 p.m., when the Bradford County Sheriff's Office was called to come get him.

State Attorney Smith says Valdez suffered "multiple blunt traumas."

Each of the five officers involved in Valdez's "extraction" filed reports of their use of force Saturday night, Johnson says, and two noted the inmate's broken ribs.

"In doing CPR, one guy felt the ribs going," Johnson said. A second guard breathing into Valdez's mouth reported: "When the officer was doing compressions, I heard them pop," Johnson said.

"Are there cracked ribs?" Johnson said. "Yeah, we told them on Saturday they were going to find cracked ribs."

The FDLE will not say why search warrants were served Tuesday night at the homes of just seven of the nine guards temporarily relieved of duties.

No deals, spokeswoman says

FDLE spokeswoman Liz Hirst cautioned against reading into that some sort of deal afoot for two of the guards. None have been offered immunity against prosecution, she said.

Johnson said investigators have given him no indication "that they have singled out any one person."

He added that the FDLE could have had the clothing and boots seized with search warrants "for the asking." Of Corrections Department papers seized at one home, he says: "It's not unusual that nine guys who work for Corrections are going to have DOC stuff around the house." After the guards filed reports on the incident Saturday night, he says, one may have taken a copy home.

The FBI offered assistance to the state on Monday.

"But at this point it is still an investigation being conducted by the FDLE with help from the state attorney's office," Hirst said. "It is a homicide on state property, and it seems that is where it is going to stay."

Until answers are found, a storm of questions over Starke is casting shadows on a correctional community that prides itself on professionalism.

"It's like a huge hurricane that's stationary," the PBA's Johnson says. "It's just kind of sitting there doing a lot of damage, but no one knows where it's going to go."

The six-county court circuit of pine woods, prisons and state college campuses may be a tough place in which to prosecute one or more of the thousands of correctional officers who work in the many state prisons of Northeast Florida. The FDLE's Moore acknowledges it will be difficult to impanel a jury.

"I don't have a lot of sympathy for Mr. Valdez, to be honest with you. He was a convicted killer," Moore said. "But I do have a lot of respect for the rules we play by in a civilized society ... Regardless of how despicable some men may be, they don't deserve to die this way."

Herald researchers

Tina Cummings and Liz Donovan

contributed to this report.

Inmate case tests agreement

of The Tampa Tribune

TALLAHASSEE - A homicide probe of prison guards
marks the first use of procedures for an independent inquiry.

No stranger to controversy, the Florida Department of
Corrections is again embroiled in an ugly conflict.

The weekend beating death of convicted murderer Frank Valdes marks the third time since 1998 that Florida prison guards have faced criminal investigations after suspicious deaths of inmates.

It's a grim pattern that is drawing national interest.

``Certainly, we're not suggesting that the inmates are all saints, but they do have rights protecting them while they are being punished,'' Gerald LeMelle, a spokesman in Atlanta for Amnesty International USA, said Thursday. ``It seems highly unlikely that Mr. Valdes hurt himself, as [an attorney representing prison guards] has suggested, by throwing himself up against a wall.''

Incident reports filed by guards involved in the Saturday beating of Valdes indicate he became agitated when officers tried to search his cell.

Valdes, who was on death row for the 1987 slaying of a prison guard in Palm Beach County, had threatened to kill a prison sergeant earlier Saturday, according to the 32-page report released Thursday by the Corrections Department. Initial information spelled his name as Valdez.

The inmate refused to be handcuffed during the search. A team of guards was sent into the cell with an electronic stun shield and pepper spray.

``From our end, we have members of our association who were lawfully doing their job as they were trained to do it,'' said Bill Johnson, an attorney for the Florida Police Benevolent Association, a union representing state prison guards. ``There is no coverup.''

Howard Simon, executive director of the Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said Thursday he was ``heartened'' that the death of Valdes was under investigation as a homicide.

It is the first test of new procedures requiring independent investigations of all suspicious deaths inside Florida prisons. The procedures, started as a memorandum of understanding between the Corrections Department and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, were drafted after articles examining the cases of two women state prisoners who hanged themselves in 1998 appeared in The Tampa Tribune.

Simon said it was premature to tell whether the procedures would result in long-lasting changes.

``A prosecution for responsibility for the death of somebody in custody is the only thing I know of that will change the behavior of officers,'' Simon said. ``You can write all the memorandums of understanding you want, but somebody has to be held responsible, maybe criminally responsible.''

Johnson lashed out at what he called the unusual pressure being exerted in the case.

FDLE Commissioner James T. Moore indicated Wednesday that his agency might be willing to cut a deal with any guards willing to cooperate with investigators. The probe is focusing on the nine Florida State Prison guards involved in the struggle, all of whom have been suspended with pay.

``I think it's very clear that FDLE is doing everything it can to bring an extreme amount of pressure against these men,'' said Johnson. ``I don't understand how Commissioner Moore can continually be stating that he knows what happened, that it's a murder, but then in the next breath say they need someone to come forward and tell them what happened.''

Johnson said there are plenty of indications Valdes flung himself onto the floor and against the walls of his cell, which could have caused the fatal injuries.

Moore disagreed. ``Obviously we have a different opinion by virtue of the fact we're calling this a homicide,'' he said.

Moore said the investigative agreement with the Corrections Department, announced this year by Gov. Jeb Bush, was working well.

Last year, after the hanging deaths of two inmates at Jefferson Correctional Institution, the Corrections Department rejected an offer of investigative help by the FDLE. It sparked criticism and the unusual intervention of Bush, who ordered the department to sign the agreement to cooperate with the FDLE.

One of those to die, Florence Krell, 41, of Hollywood, who was serving an 18-month sentence on car theft charges, alleged mistreatment at the hands of male and female guards. In letters to her sentencing judge that were illegally confiscated by prison officials, Krell wrote that she had been pepper sprayed, left naked and handcuffed and that water to her cell had been turned off. Six guards were disciplined, but no criminal charges were filed after state inquiries.

Earlier in 1998, 10 prison guards were indicted on federal conspiracy charges in connection with the death of an HIV-positive inmate at Charlotte Correctional Institution. John Edwards was beaten and left chained to his bed, where he bled to death. The attack allegedly was in retaliation for a confrontation in which Edwards bit a guard at Zephyrhills Correctional Institution. Three guards pleaded guilty to lesser charges; the other seven were acquitted in a U.S. District Court trial.

Freed from Death Row

Florida leads the nation in wrongful death sentences with 20.
What has become of these survivors?

St. Petersburg Times, published July 4, 1999

Since 1972, 78 men and two women in the United States have been sentenced to death and then freed from death row -- in some cases more than a decade later -- when it became clear they were innocent, or at least wrongly convicted because of flawed evidence, prosecutorial misconduct or other problems. Illinois, which has freed at least 12 condemned inmates, the latest on May 17, has attracted most of the national publicity lately. But it is Florida -- with 20 death row survivors -- that leads the nation in wrongful death sentences. Three of the 20 came within 16 hours of the electric chair. Their last meals had been ordered, their $150 burial suits measured, tailored and waiting. What has become of Florida's wrongly condemned? One is dead, murdered on the streets of Medellin, Colombia, a few years after his release. Two never left state custody. They are serving out sentences for other crimes. Four got a taste of freedom. They are back behind bars for offenses they committed after they were released. The remaining 13 are back in society, free from death row but not from its shadows. Many of those 13 live on the edge, modestly and anonymously, fearful that word of their past will get out, struggling to get back some of what they lost: marriages, self-respect, jobs, health, mental stability. Outwardly, three or four of the survivors seem perfectly normal, with families, nice homes and good jobs. But every day, they must deal with the memories, the bitterness, the anger and fear. Experts say wrongful death sentences are built on similar circumstances: police who use coerced confessions or questionable eyewitness identifications; prosecutors who exploit false testimony or inaccurate scientific evidence; jurors who are tainted by prejudice; judges who are out for headlines; and suspects who are easy marks -- because of their race, criminal background or inability to afford a good lawyer. Only five of Florida's wrongly condemned have received compensation from the state, and they say the money can't replace what they lost. There's an irony in the stories of death row survivors: It took a death sentence to free them. If they had received a life sentence, they probably never would have gotten out. Michael L. Radelet, a University of Florida sociology professor who documents wrongful executions, says death row survivors are the lucky ones because only through good fortune and careful scrutiny of their cases were they vindicated before a fatal error. "As long as we have the death penalty," Radelet says, "innocent people will be executed." With more capital punishment cases and shrinking legal resources, the danger of wrongful convictions and wrongful executions is "getting worse," says Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington. Most prosecutors, judges and Florida officials won't admit an innocent person has ever been executed here or convicted in error. But Gerald Kogan, who recently retired after 11 years on the Florida Supreme Court, told the Associated Press in December that he wasn't convinced of guilt in "two or three" of the 25 state executions while he was on the court. "There are several cases where I had grave doubts as to the guilt of a particular person, (and) other cases where I just felt they were treated unfairly in the system," Kogan said. Kogan, a former prosecutor, refuses to elaborate on which cases he had in mind. "I've said what I'm going to say on that. I don't want to talk about that any more." Gov. Jeb Bush, who has signed death warrants to send two convicted killers to the electric chair this week, declined to comment for this story. In meetings, Bush has voiced concern about people on death row who may be innocent, according to Carol Licko, his general counsel. She says the governor signed the warrants only after a careful review of the cases to eliminate any possibility of a wrongful execution. Life on death row Each of the cells is 6 feet wide, 9 feet long and 91/2 feet high, with concrete walls on three sides and steel bars in front that look out over a 3-foot-wide catwalk. Each cell has a steel toilet, a steel sink, a steel footlocker and a steel bunk with a mattress 4 inches thick. Each cell also is equipped with a 13-inch black-and-white television. Meals, mail and Bibles are passed to the condemned through a slot in the bars Inmates can't see into other cells, but they can look down the corridor by angling a piece of a mirror. They communicate with one another by talking down the corridor -- called "getting on the bars" -- or yelling through a vent or the plumbing pipes. Or throwing a long stick with a note attached to the person in the next cell. Twice a week, they are let out for a two-hour trip to an exercise yard. Three times a week, they are escorted to the shower stall, where the water runs for five minutes. Occasionally, guards jerk open a cell door to search an inmate's belongings or body for drugs or shanks (crude, homemade knives). Death row survivors remember the numbing cold in winter, the hellish heat in summer and the non-stop din of hundreds of voices and noises, relieved only by an eerie quiet on execution days. Alone with nothing but time, they did almost anything to keep their minds occupied. They counted every dent in the walls, every crevice on the floor. They learned the heavy footsteps of their favorite nighttime guard. They prayed for life and sometimes hoped for death. They slept and wrote poetry, usually at night when there was less noise. They read and argued about things such as whether to go to the execution chamber kicking and screaming or "like a man." Anthony Peek, who survived a decade on the row, paced so much -- five steps back and forth -- that his knees are weak. Dave Keaton, released from death row 26 years ago, could catch a glimpse of the afternoon sun if he stood at the right angle. Sonia "Sunny" Jacobs, who for a time was the only woman in the country on death row, painted by dipping strands of her hair in beet juice. One rule of survival: be buddies with everyone but close friends with no one. That's because it hurts too much when a friend is executed. Anthony Brown, who watched and listened 12 times as guards prepared for executions, tears up when he remembers his final hours with Marvin Francois. Francois, 39, was executed in 1985 for killing six people during a robbery of a Miami drug house. "We wanted to send him out on a high," says Brown, 43, recounting how they shared a cigarette and fantasized it was a joint. "It took a little out of me when they killed him. I'd grown real attached to him." No matter how they passed the time, they had one thing in common: a date with death in Florida's electric chair.

The Other 13 and Their Stories

Wilbert Lee, 64, and Freddie Pitts, 55
Convicted 1963; RELEASED 1975

THE CRIME: Juries twice convicted Lee and Pitts of killing two gas station attendants at Port St. Joe in the Florida Panhandle. The case was built on confessions, which Pitts and Lee said were beaten out of them. No physical evidence linked them to the crime. Joe Townsend, the polygraph operator who extracted the confessions, later came under fire for coercing confessions from suspects in other cases. HOW THEY GOT OUT: Another man - sentenced to life for another homicide - confessed to the murders. Polygraph operator Warren Holmes reported the confession to Miami Herald reporter Gene Miller, whose stories helped prompt a second trial. Again, the jury convicted Pitts and Lee. In 1975, then-Gov. Reubin Askew pardoned the two. "I am sufficiently convinced that they are innocent," Askew said. WHERE THEY ARE NOW: Lee and Pitts, who met at a moonshine party at Lee's house the night of the crime, became like brothers. After moving to Miami, they found a network of friends and lawyers to help them adjust. "When you step into a free society, it's like stepping on a merry-go-round," says Lee, whose family left him while he was on death row. He started working for the state, counseling troubled juveniles, a job he later lost because of his felony conviction. He was then hired to counsel inmates in Miami-Dade's jails. Pitts, who hasn't seen his two daughters since prison, worked for a while in security but preferred the outdoors. Now a truck driver, he is married and lives in Miami Shores. Last year, the Legislature awarded each man $500,000 - the first time it has ordered restitution for persons wrongly sentenced to death. Both men, frequent lecturers against the death penalty, say the money won't buy back the lost time. "It's like giving the monkey some peanuts," Lee scoffs. Delbert Lee Tibbs, 58
Convicted 1974; released (on bond) 1977, released (from charges) 1982 THE CRIME: A Lee County jury convicted Tibbs of shooting to death hitchhiker Terry Milroy, 27, and raping his 16-year-old traveling companion, Cynthia Nadeau, near Fort Myers. Tibbs, a onetime theology student, was arrested in Mississippi after Nadeau picked him out of a lineup, despite discrepancies between him and her original description of the killer. Her testimony was enough to convict him. Tibbs testified that he was in Daytona Beach when the crimes occurred. HOW HE GOT OUT: In 1976, the Florida Supreme Court ordered a retrial, saying the victim was an unreliable witness and expressing "considerable doubt" that Tibbs was the killer. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which said that retrying Tibbs would not constitute double jeopardy. Still, the state decided to drop the charges in 1982, and the prosecutor who convicted Tibbs later expressed doubts about his guilt. WHERE HE IS NOW: Tibbs became a cause celebre, attracting supporters such as Joan Baez, Angela Davis and Pete Seeger, who wrote a ballad entitled Ode to Delbert Tibbs. Tibbs lives alone in a studio apartment in Chicago, works in a packaging warehouse and is active in campaigns against the death penalty. "The jobs I've gotten have been out of the benevolence of friends," he says. "Jobs in mainstream America I don't even try for anymore." Off death row for years, Tibbs remembers waking up one night after a friend was electrocuted and "feeling as if someone stabbed me in the rear." Tibbs has written several poems about executed buddies and is working on a book. "I should have lost hope," he says, "but I didn't."

Anibal Jaramillo-Restrepo, deceased
Convicted 1981; released from death row 1982
THE CRIME: A Dade County jury convicted Jaramillo, an illegal Colombian immigrant, for the murders of Gilberto Caicedo and Candellario Castellanos in their southwest Dade townhouse. Each was shot three times in the head. Dade Circuit Judge Ellen Morphonios-Gable overruled the jury's recommendation of life in prison. The prosecution's case hinged on Jaramillo 's fingerprints, which were found on a knife casing, a table and a grocery bag in the victims' home. The murder weapon, a machine gun equipped with a silencer, was never found. At the trial, evidence emerged that tended to incriminate the victims' roommate. Jaramillo, 26 at the time of his arrest, testified he had been in the home earlier that day and helped the victims' nephew clean out the garage. He said he used the knife, rope and paper during the cleanup. HOW HE GOT OUT: In 1982 the Florida Supreme Court freed Jaramillo because of insufficient evidence. "The proof is not inconsistent with Jaramillo's reasonable explanation as to how his fingerprints came to be on these items at the victim's home," the court said. AFTER HE GOT OUT: Jaramillo "literally jumped for joy" when he learned he would be freed, says his lawyer, Louis Casuso. But the day Jaramillo left death row, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms arrested him for lying on a form when he bought a .45-caliber pistol from a gun shop in 1980. In 1983, a federal judge sentenced him to four years in prison. According to his lawyer, Jaramillo was eventually deported to Colombia, where he was murdered in Medellin.

Anthony S. Brown, 43
Convicted 1983; released 1986
THE CRIME: An Escambia County jury convicted Brown of the 1982 shotgun murder of James Dasinger, a gas company delivery man, north of Pensacola. Wydell D. Rogers, who claimed to be an accomplice, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and testified that he and Brown plotted the entire incident. Circuit Judge Joseph Q. Tarbuck rejected the jury's recommended life sentence and imposed the death penalty. HOW HE GOT OUT: The Florida Supreme Court overturned Brown's conviction in 1985, ruling the prosecution erred when it took a pretrial deposition from a sheriff's deputy without notifying Brown. At the retrial in 1986, Rogers, the state's star witness, said he lied at the first trial. Brown, a tattooed high-school dropout with a 14-page rap sheet, was acquitted. WHERE HE IS NOW: After a year of freedom, Brown was arrested on robbery charges, which prosecutors eventually dropped. Hoping to start over, Brown moved to Detroit and got a job in a nursing home. Soon he was back in Escambia County and in trouble. "You just don't walk off death row and pick up," says Brown. In February 1990, he squared off with a man wielding a bottle in a bar and stabbed him with a pocketknife. Brown was arrested and pleaded guilty. The same judge who sentenced him to death in 1983 sentenced him to 30 years for aggravated battery. Brown, a father of two, says 100 years at Union Correctional Institution, where he is now, is better than death row. "I tried to do everything differently," he says, getting emotional. Still, "I feel safe here, safer than the street. I could have been killed in a drive-by. If I hadn't have been on death row, who knows if I'd be dead or alive?"

Anthony Ray Peek, 41
Convicted 1978; released from death row 1987
THE CRIME: Polk County juries twice convicted Peek, a New York drifter on probation for burglary, of beating and strangling Erma Carlson, a 65-year-old nurse, in her Winter Haven home. Just before the murder trial, Peek was convicted and sentenced to life for an unrelated rape. The murder conviction hinged on Peek's fingerprint, which was found on the dead woman's car. Peek testified that on the night of the murder he never left the Winter Haven halfway house where he was serving his burglary probation. He said he was at a park the next day when he saw the unlocked car and opened the door. HOW HE GOT OUT: Polk Circuit Judge John Dewell overturned the first conviction in 1983, ruling that a hair analyst gave erroneous testimony. The Florida Supreme Court overturned his second conviction in 1986 because the judge inappropriately allowed evidence about the unrelated rape. Acquittal at a third trial in 1987 brought an end to Peek's 10-year death row ordeal. WHERE HE IS NOW: Peek sweeps the prison grounds at Everglades Correctional Institution, where he is serving a life sentence for rape. In 1993, his death row marriage to a Tennessee pen pal fell apart. Two years later, Peek, then 37, exchanged wedding vows with another prison visitor, Helen Hope. A 52-year-old British emigre, she left her homeland, husband and children and moved to Gainesville to be near Peek. "All he's got is God and me," she says. The parole board recently tacked five years onto Peek's release date, now scheduled for 2010. But a decade on death row has taught him to handle anything. He points to a garbage bin in the prison visiting area. "If you put a human being in there," he says, "he's gonna find a way to survive."

Willie Albert Brown, 49,
and Larry Troy, 48
Convicted 1983; released from death row 1988
THE CRIME: Brown and Troy were already in prison when they were convicted of the 1981 stabbing death of Earl Owens, a fellow inmate at Union Correctional Institution. Prison officials held the pair in solitary for 17 months before arresting them. Their conviction rested largely on the testimony of Frank Wise, a fellow inmate who said he saw Brown and Troy leave the homicide scene. HOW THEY GOT OUT: In 1987, the Florida Supreme Court reversed the convictions. The court said prosecutors flubbed the case by not giving defense lawyers statements of prison interviews with the defendants. On death row, Brown fell in love with Esther Lichtenfels, a prison visitor who ended up helping to free the pair. Wearing a legally authorized hidden tape recorder, she recorded Wise, the prosecution's key witness, saying he had lied and offering to tell the truth for $2,000. Prosecutors dismissed the charges against Brown and Troy. WHERE THEY ARE NOW: Brown, a Clearwater resident who had been serving 20 years for a Pinellas County robbery, left prison in 1988. About an hour later, he married Lichtenfels at the Clay County Courthouse. Troy, serving a 25-year sentence for murder, left in 1990. Both are back in prison. Troy, arrested for selling cocaine seven months after his release, is serving time at Charlotte Correctional Institution. Brown's life has been a cycle of drugs and robberies. He went to prison for robbing a bank in Springfield, Mass. Then, in April, Pinellas sheriff's deputies arrested him after he allegedly robbed a bank in Dunedin with a broken broom stick, stole a car and led police on a high-speed chase. Brown says prosecutors are holding his time on death row against him. "In their eyes, I was never exonerated," he says from the Pinellas County Jail. "There's enough pain in this stuff to last a lifetime."

James Joseph Richardson, 63
Convicted 1968; released 1989
THE CRIME: A DeSoto County jury convicted Richardson, an Arcadia migrant worker with no criminal record, of poisoning his stepdaughter, Betty Jean. She died along with five sisters and one brother in 1967 after eating a lunch laced with a pesticide. Prosecutors said he killed them to collect on $7,000 in life insurance. Richardson denied it. He said the children's babysitter, Betsy Reese, poisoned their last meal of rice and beans with pesticide. HOW HE GOT OUT: Washington lawyer Mark Lane, who gained attention because of his John F. Kennedy conspiracy theory, wrote a book about the case, Arcadia. Among other things, he said Richardson never bought insurance. After the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed capital punishment in 1972, Richardson's sentence was commuted to life. In 1989, the governor named then-Dade State Attorney Janet Reno to re-examine the case. She concluded that prosecutors convicted Richardson with perjured testimony and ignored the babysitter as a possible suspect. Based on her report, DeSoto Circuit Judge Clifton Kelly ordered Richardson freed. "The enormity of the crime," the judge said, "is matched only by the enormity of the injustice to this man." The babysitter died of Alzheimer's disease in 1992. WHERE HE IS NOW: Richardson, who learned to read and write in prison and was ordained a minister, became an instant celebrity. Hollywood producers talked about a movie deal, and comedian Dick Gregory offered him a $100,000-a-year job at a nutrition clinic. The job didn't pan out, the movie hasn't materialized and Richardson suffered a series of setbacks. The less than $20,000 he got for the rights to his story was gone after four or five years. His heart problems - which he attributes to prison food, poor medical care and constant stress - worsened. He and his wife, who stuck by him throughout his imprisonment, were divorced. And most of the $150,000 Richardson got in an out-of-court settlement with DeSoto County went to his lawyers. Richardson, who spent too much of his life in prison to be entitled to Social Security, now lives at the ranch of his cardiologist in Wichita, Kan., and does light work to pay for room and board. His lasting memory of death row is the sound of keys rattling. "When I hear a bunch of keys shaking, I think they are coming to get me and put me in the electric chair," he says. "I'm trying to get over it, but it's something a man can never forget." <{> Robert Craig Cox, 39
Convicted 1988; released from death row 1990
THE CRIME: An Orange County jury convicted Cox, a onetime Army Ranger, of the 1978 beating death of Sharon Zellers, 19, a Walt Disney World clerk. The case was weak, and Cox was not charged until eight years after the murder. Cox and his family were staying at a motel in Orlando where the victim's body was found. He had a cut on his tongue, and hair and blood samples found near the victim were compatible with his. Cox testified he bit through his tongue during a fight. HOW HE GOT OUT: The Florida Supreme Court reversed Cox's conviction, ruling that, at best, the evidence created "only a suspicion" of guilt. The court ordered his acquittal and release. WHERE HE IS NOW: For Cox, there was no celebration. He was immediately taken into custody to complete a prison sentence in California for an unrelated 1985 kidnapping. Then he returned to his boyhood home of Springfield, Mo., where he came under suspicion - but was never charged - in the 1992 disappearance of a mother and two teenage girls. Texas police also questioned him about an abduction in Plano. In 1995, Cox was arrested for holding a gun on a 12-year-old girl during a robbery in Decatur, Texas. He is serving a life sentence for that robbery and is not eligible for parole until 2025. He declines to comment.

Andrew Lee Golden, 55
Convicted in 1989; released in 1993
THE CRIME: A Polk County jury convicted Golden, a onetime high school teacher, of drowning his wife, Ardelle, in a lake near the family's home in Winter Haven. Her body was found floating near a boat dock, just a few feet from a partially submerged Pontiac Grand Am that her husband had rented. The medical examiner ruled the death an accident and said there were no signs of foul play. But the jury believed the prosecutor's version - that Golden, facing debts of more than $200,000, pushed his wife off the boat dock and then drove the car into the lake to make the drowning look accidental. He hoped to collect on more than $350,000 in life insurance policies taken out in the year before her death, prosecutors said. HOW HE GOT OUT: The Florida Supreme Court overturned the conviction and ordered Golden's release, saying the prosecution failed to prove Ardelle Golden's death was anything but an accident. It may have occurred after she drove down the unmarked, unlit boat dock at night. WHERE HE IS NOW: Golden lived for a while with his oldest son, Darin, then with son Chip, who was 13 when his father was arrested. Chip noticed his father had changed. "He was more easily agitated," Chip says. "He had a worse temper. He had a hard time adjusting to the idea that you got to get a job ... got to pay bills." Unable to stay in one place, Golden moved to Texas, where he was arrested in 1996 for molesting two girls, ages 8 and 9. Then in April he pleaded guilty in neighboring Denton County to a new charge of indecency with a child. His lawyer, John Giofreddi, says the death of Golden's wife, coupled with "the trauma of death row," contributed to his transformation into a "regressed pedophile." Golden pleaded guilty and began a 15-year prison term in May.

Robert Hayes, 35
Convicted 1991; released 1997
THE CRIME: A Broward County jury convicted Hayes, a groom at the Pompano Harness Track, of the 1990 rape and strangling death of fellow groom Pamela Albertson. Prosecutors introduced DNA evidence that they said linked him to the homicide. Hayes' lawyers presented expert testimony suggesting the DNA results were contaminated. HOW HE GOT OUT: The Florida Supreme Court ordered a new trial because of faulty DNA analysis. "The record contains evidence suggesting that Hayes committed the homicide," the court said, but it "also contains objective physical evidence suggesting that someone other than Hayes was responsible." At a retrial, Hayes' lawyers showed that hairs used to convict him the first time most likely came from a white person. Hayes, who is black, was acquitted. WHERE HE IS NOW: Hayes, who is nicknamed "Mississippi," left prison with a plastic bag of socks and sneakers but no money. His lawyer paid for a bus ticket to his hometown of Canton, Miss., where he moved in with his grandmother. Hayes tried to get a job as a janitor but was rejected because of the seven-year gap on his resume. Eventually, the town hired him to drive dump trucks and clean sewers. Hayes also helps care for horses at an amusement park owned by his uncle. Recently, he married Georgia Brown, 22, a nursing home employee. "I'm trying to build my life back up," says Hayes, a two-pack-a-day smoker. He says he gets angry easily and has mood swings and nightmares. "I might get 30 minutes of sleep every hour every night," he says. "I don't know who's gonna come down the hallway."

Joseph Robert Spaziano, 53
Convicted 1976; released from death row 1998
THE CRIME: A Seminole County jury convicted Spaziano, an Outlaws motorcycle gang member from Rochester, N.Y., of the 1973 murder of Laura Harberts, an Orlando hospital clerk. The verdict hinged on the testimony of a teenage drug user, Anthony DiLisio, who remembered key facts about the murder only after he was hypnotized. Circuit Judge Robert McGregor overrode the jury's recommendation and sentenced Spaziano to death. HOW HE GOT OUT: Spaziano, who got the nickname "Crazy Joe" after a truck ran over his head, survived five death warrants. In 1995, 16 days before his scheduled execution, the state's star witness recanted his testimony, which prompted an order for a new trial. On the eve of the retrial, in November 1998, Spaziano pleaded no contest to second-degree murder while swearing he did not kill Laura Harberts. Under the plea agreement, he did not have to admit guilt, was sentenced to time served and released from death row. WHERE HE IS NOW: Spaziano is in prison, serving a life sentence for the 1974 rape of a 16-year-old Orlando girl. He says he is innocent and is appealing. For Spaziano, the decision to accept the plea deal in the murder case was "stark reality. . . . I have come within days of being electrocuted . . . never knowing when I would be put to death by electrocution," he wrote in an affidavit. "I do not want my daughter and three grandchildren to live under the threat and fear (and) . . . experience the hurt and damage of my death in the electric chair." These days, Spaziano moves around without handcuffs at Florida State Prison, joking with robbers, rapists and killers in the general population. Some cheer and call his name. Still, Spaziano feels low sometimes. "I'm tired of everybody," he said recently. "I want people to go away."

Court moves prison guards case

A judge decides a grand jury in Gainesville
should hear evidence about the
fatal beating of an inmate.

St. Petersburg Times, published September 8, 1999

Moving the case from the rural county where prisons dominate the economy and culture, a judge Tuesday ordered a Gainesville grand jury to consider charges in the fatal beating of death row inmate Frank Valdes. Valdes died July 17 at Florida State Prison near Starke in Bradford County after a brutal beating, apparently at the hands of some of the people who were supposed to be guarding him. Nine corrections officers have been placed on administrative leave in the wake of his death. State and federal officers are conducting criminal investigations. State Attorney Rod Smith asked for the out-of-town grand jury early Tuesday because he worried that a Bradford County panel might be improperly compromised or influenced by the prison system. The guards in question live in and around Bradford County. Chief Circuit Judge Robert P. Cates issued an order Tuesday finding that conditions in Bradford County make it "impractical to convene a grand jury" to investigate Valdes' death. The move from Starke, in a county where the state prison system is the biggest employer, to Gainesville, the Alachua County seat and an urban area dominated by the University of Florida, is only 27 miles, but the two communities are worlds apart. In his motion seeking the move, Smith noted that the prison system has 3,000 employees living in the vicinity and an annual economic impact of about $200-million. Smith said his office has selected numerous grand juries and trial juries in Bradford County, so he has firsthand experience with the large number of people who have relatives working for the system or are doing business with the prisons. The state attorney also expressed concern over security at the Bradford County Courthouse because the investigation might require testimony from "high-risk inmates." A number of inmates at the prison have reported witnessing the actions of corrections officers before and after Valdes died. Smith said the only people who had contact with Valdes on the day of his death were employees at the prison. Valdes, convicted of killing a guard in Palm Beach County in 1987 was confined on X Wing, a section of the prison reserved for the worst of the worst inmates. Transferring the case to Alachua County would help Smith pursue a grand jury investigation, but it would not help state prosecutors if an indictment is returned. State law would require a trial to occur in the county where the alleged crime was committed. Lawyers for the nine prison guards vowed to fight the court order moving the case to Alachua County. "Does he think we all fell off the turnip truck?" asked Gloria Fletcher, a Gainesville lawyer who is helping represent the guards. "We are looking at available options. I think it is extremely premature. I don't know why they could not get a fair jury in Bradford County." In seeking an outside grand jury, Smith noted two prior instances where the courts have moved such investigations. In 1972 the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Lakeland approved the move of a grand jury investigation into an inmate's death from Lake County because of the influence of then-Sheriff Willis McCall. In that case a judge moved the investigation saying it was "impractical" to have it in Lake County. In a 1992 decision, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta noted the overwhelming influence of prison life in Union County, a county that adjoins Bradford County and is also home to some of the state's largest prisons. Ronald Woods, an inmate sentenced to death for murdering a prison guard, had cited the large number of uniformed correctional officers in the courtroom throughout his trial and the "hostile atmosphere" in the small rural county where the prison was the largest employer. The court noted that more than one-third of the people who live in Union County were prison inmates and compared the situation with neighboring Bradford County, where Florida State Prison is. Valdes' death will also be the subject of discussion today when the Senate Criminal Justice Committee convenes to hear an explanation from Corrections Secretary Michael Moore. Committee Chairman Ginny Brown-Waite summoned Moore for an explanation of how inmates end up on X Wing and how many guards have been disciplined in the past five years. Copyright 1999 St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.

'We'd rather have died than to stay in that place
for something we didn't do'

St. Petersburg Times, published July 4, 1999

Off death row for 11 years, Earnest Lee Miller, the tall and quiet one, and William Riley Jent, his short and happy-go-lucky half-brother, have taken different paths to build something from the ashes. Miller, 43, is a roofer in his native Dayton, Ohio. He embraces the past, sharing his eight-year ordeal with new neighbors and new family. Jent, 48, a ranch owner in Arizona, keeps it hidden. He lives incognito, refusing to discuss the past. In separate trials, Pasco County juries convicted Jent and Miller of raping and bludgeoning to death a woman known only as "Tammy" in 1979. She was later identified as Linda Gale Bradshaw, 20. The case was built largely on the testimony of witnesses who said that after a party near Dade City, the two men bashed the woman's head with a stick, raped her and set fire to her as she struggled to get up. Jent and Miller came within 16 hours of execution in 1983, and Miller says they were "ready to go. . . . We'd rather have died than to stay in that place for something we didn't do." A federal judge issued a stay. Two of the three supposed witnesses to the killing had recanted their testimony. And defense lawyers had uncovered evidence that the victim's boyfriend, who moved away after the murder, started dating another woman whose burned body was found in a field. He was never charged. In 1987, a federal district court threw out the convictions. Prosecutors had withheld evidence and acted with a "callous and deliberate disregard of the fundamental principles of truth and fairness," the court said. In January 1988, then-State Attorney James T. Russell allowed Jent and Miller to go free on time served -- in exchange for guilty pleas to second-degree murder. Miller says he isn't sorry he took the deal. "I can't own a gun," he says. "But I was free, I'm free, after 81/2 years of torment." Neither man's re-entry was smooth. Both were angry. A year after going free, Jent, once a tattooed member of a motorcycle gang, was arrested in Ohio on a misdemeanor marijuana charge. Miller, a former Marine, says he died a little when his ex-wife wouldn't let him see his two children. He'd stand inside a friend's house three doors down and watch them through a window. In 1991, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office paid the pair $65,000 to settle a wrongful-arrest lawsuit. Most of the money went toward lawyers' fees and expenses incurred by the victim's father, who testified that he didn't think Miller and Jent committed the murder. "The $14,000 I got bought me a nice Harley-Davidson," Miller says. Eventually, Jent moved to Arizona, where his wife, Patricia, boosted his spirits and helped him find God. She put all of their assets in her name and persuaded him to sweep the memories under the rug. Together they closely guard the secret of his past. "We have a good life," says Patricia. "We don't want to relive this. Nobody knows about Bill's past. We don't talk about it. We've turned it over to the Lord." Miller, meanwhile, started to put his life back together when he met his wife, Tamara Farmer, in Dayton seven years ago. A divorcee with four children, she says "it took a lot of love and a lot of work" to "break down the walls" of Miller's tough exterior. "He looked scary," she says. "He didn't trust anyone. He never laughed." The couple owns a '99 Ford Explorer and a four-bedroom house in a middle-class neighborhood of Dayton. Tamara's four children and Earnest's nephew live with them, along with a Rottweiler and two small dogs. The two children lost to him while on death row are planning to visit soon. Miller says he is haunted by suspicion. It doesn't happen often, but "when I get pulled over for a ticket, I automatically stick my hands out and put them on the car or keep them some place where the police can see them. It's something I never did before and now I have to do." Miller and Jent sometimes talk by telephone, though they rarely discuss death row or compare notes about how it affects their thinking and living. They have a lot in common: After years of being locked in cages, both work by themselves outdoors. After years of lost love and relationships, both have found supportive wives. And after years of fearing life and death on death row, both sometimes bolt awake in the middle of the night. A few weeks ago, Miller was a pallbearer at a funeral for his wife's grandfather. She says he was nervous about being inside in the church with a crowd. "He wanted out of there," she says, "but he stayed for me." Copyright 1999 St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.

Prison chief promises
to correct problems
Michael Moore says a statewide set of guidelines will help guards determine when they can use force.


St. Petersburg Times, published September 9, 1999
TALLAHASSEE -- Florida's prison system has been adequately funded but poorly managed, Corrections Secretary Michael Moore told a Senate committee Wednesday looking into the death of inmate Frank Valdes. Moore said the system he inherited in January had no central policies on use of force, no requirement for videotaping physical encounters between guards and sometimes violent inmates, and no way that authorities in Tallahassee could determine whether a particular guard or prison was employing too much force. Inmates with a complaint about treatment had to hand copies of the written grievance to officers who were often the subject of the complaint, Moore said. "We're fixing that," he said. Moore also will begin rotating guards out of high-stress situations every 18 months instead of leaving them for years in close contact with the most violent offenders. Moore said the problems can be corrected with centralized policies that will force all prisons to comply with the same rules. He compared the need for standard policies to the way Wal-Mart operates: Individual store managers do not decide what they will sell. That is decided for them and they carry out company policy. Valdes died July 17 at Florida State Prison in Bradford County after a brutal beating, apparently at the hands of guards who were supposed to be watching him. But, Moore said, the death was an aberration that should not reflect on the vast majority of hard-working officers who risk their lives daily. "We are convinced that when all the dust settles on the changes we have made because of the Valdes incident and reorganization, Florida's prison system will be better off," Moore said. Even a simple videotaping system that was already available at Florida State Prison might have prevented Valdes' death, Moore suggested. "It would have given us early warning signs," he said. "Some officers work there under very tense conditions. I think the agency let down the employees. Our people deserve better than that." Moore arrived at the meeting with eight top administrative staffers and five uniformed corrections officers who brought along videotapes of encounters between difficult inmates and officers and a table filled with homemade weapons confiscated from inmates. Moore also brought written answers to questions posed by members of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee and a 25-page list of projects he says will fix much of what is broken. "This is a system that was more than broke when he took over," Committee Chairwoman Ginny Brown-Waite said after the meeting. "He is trying to do a good job. He is somebody that sees something that is broken and tries to fix it." Brown-Waite saved her most serious criticism for Florida State Prison Warden James Crosby. She said Crosby should be fired because he stopped videotaping situations when prison guards forcefully removed inmates from their cells. Moore strongly supported Crosby, saying he "is a very professional warden who will remain in charge at Florida State Prison." Moore said Crosby stopped officers from making videotapes of cell extractions in early 1998 because the prison system had no policy to require it in all facilities. In a two-page written explanation produced by corrections officials after the meeting, Crosby said a regional director told him not to routinely film such encounters until the state had a policy. Crosby said routine videotapes were abandoned before he took over the prison, and only one was made after his arrival. When he learned of it, he stopped them, pending a statewide policy. Moore said he didn't want to answer detailed questions about Valdes' death because of an ongoing state and federal criminal investigation. But it was difficult not to respond to some questions. Why were officers forcefully removing Valdes from his cell on July 17, the day he died? asked Brown-Waite. "He had threatened an officer Friday at 3 p.m.," Moore replied. "Saturday morning they went in to shake down his cell. My problem with this is, if it's a real threat, why didn't we go in at 3:15 p.m.? We should have reacted immediately." What caused Valdes to die? asked Sen. Walter G. "Skip" Campbell, D-Fort Lauderdale. "I can't comment because of the investigation," Moore said. "Is it true he had every rib fractured?" Campbell pressed. "I think we are talking about a misuse of force. I am a supporter of corrections officers, but when good people become the criminals, we have to talk about it." After the meeting, Moore said he didn't feel "worked over" by the committee.

"We should be accountable," he said.

Report criticized prison
before inmate's suicide

"This is completely unacceptable," one
legislator says of the prison system's
lack of response to the report.

St. Petersburg Times, published January 7, 1999

TALLAHASSEE -- Five weeks before a woman was found hanged in her cell at Jefferson Correctional Institute, a state medical review board found serious problems with the way the women's prison was handling suicidal inmates. The Department of Corrections was supposed to submit a plan to address the concerns by Nov. 30. But as of Wednesday, the report had yet to be turned over to the Correctional Medical Authority, which reviews physical and mental health care in state prisons. "This is completely unacceptable. ... It's completely disgusting," said Sen. Ron Silver, D-North Miami Beach, who recommended the state withhold pay from top corrections officials who failed to turn in the report. Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairwoman Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Brooksville, demanded answers, twice making John G. Burke, a deputy assistant secretary at the Corrections Department, leave the room to call his employees and find out what happened to the report. Somehow, he said, the report never made it to Tallahassee after being mailed from a regional corrections office. A copy of the report was sent to the capital Wednesday and will be submitted to the Correctional Medical Authority today, he said. The missing report was one of several issues raised when House and Senate committees reviewed the death of inmate Florence Krell on Oct. 11 at Jefferson Correctional Institution, in Monticello outside the state capital. Krell, 40, had complained about abuse from prison guards, alleging among other things that she was left naked on the floor in her cell. Prison officials also said water was turned off in Krell's cell, because sometimes unruly inmates try to flood their cells. After an internal investigation by state corrections officials, state prosecutor Willie Meggs concluded that Krell's death was a suicide. The Corrections Department is still reviewing the death of another inmate, Christine Elmore, who was found hanged at the prison last month. The governor's chief inspector general is reviewing both deaths, and the American Civil Liberties Union has demanded an independent investigation. Brown-Waite said she has been talking to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement about a review and may recommend legislation that would require such outside reviews of all prison suicides. The Correctional Medical Authority in September did a survey of physical and mental health care for inmates at the prison. The result was a scathing review. Jefferson was given a Level 1 citation -- the most serious level of criticism -- because the care of suicidal inmates "was seriously compromised," the survey report states. It was unclear in many cases whether inmates at risk of suicide were being properly observed, because of missing or incomplete documentation. In addition, there was no written rationale for housing suicidal inmates in cells other than those set aside for suicide risks. Some inmates who displayed suicidal behavior were disciplined. "This practice is non-therapeutic and constitutes punishment for evidencing symptoms of mental illness," the reviewers wrote. The review found serious health care staffing shortages at the prison and difficulty by some inmates in getting health care. One 35-year-old woman died of cardiovascular disease after prison nurses failed to refer her for further evaluation though she had a family history of heart disease. Prison officials were given oral findings of the survey Sept. 3 and written findings on Oct. 30. Burke said in an interview Wednesday that prison officials immediately began addressing the problems after the exit interview Sept. 3 and did an interim corrective action plan Sept. 23. The final plan was completed Nov. 16 -- although it never made it to Tallahassee. Prison officials also pointed out that they have a lower suicide rate than prison systems in many other large states and a lower rate than Florida's population as a whole.

Florida worked hard
to keep Davis alive
A diet, medicine, a wheelchair
and special socks were part of the care
Allen Lee Davis got leading up to his execution.

St. Petersburg Times, published July 8, 1999

Davis execution turns bloody
AP breaking news

STARKE -- Barring a last-minute stay, Florida was scheduled to put convicted killer Allen Lee Davis to death at 7:01 this morning in an electrocution that would test the state's time-honored execution rituals. Davis, 54, weighs 344 pounds, sometimes moves around in a wheelchair and is going deaf. His lawyers say his disabilities have posed enormous challenges for the state while highlighting a strange and macabre contradiction: Correction officials for months have painstakingly sought to preserve Davis' health as they prepared to kill him. In his final days, they put him on a diet. They installed grab bars so he wouldn't injure himself in the shower. They put in a special telephone so he could hear his visitors through the glass partition. Even "Old Sparky," the state's electric chair, has been remade after 76 years to accommodate people of Davis' bulk. The irony has not been lost on Davis, who maintained a sense of dark humor throughout his month in a tiny death-watch cell. "They built the chair for me," he told his former lawyer Terri L. Backhus last weekend. "Now they have to test it." As Florida locks up criminals for longer stretches, corrections officials must grapple with a growing number of older prisoners facing chronic illnesses and serious ailments. Some, like Davis, have degenerative joint disease and hypertension. Others have suffered strokes or diseases such as diabetes. And others show signs of mental illnesses, requiring round-the-clock medication. Sixty-nine of Florida's 376 death-row inmates are older than 50, and the aging population will push those numbers -- and the cost of their care -- higher and higher. Davis would become the fourth-oldest person to be executed in Florida since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976 and the first since Jeb Bush became governor in January. On Wednesday, Department of Corrections spokesman Eugene Morris said the staff planned to provide the "best care" for Davis until the end, while treating him like every other condemned inmate. "We've got a set of procedures in place and that is what we follow," Morris said, "whether we're dealing with a female offender or someone who may be obese or anyone else." * * * There is little question as to Allen Lee Davis' guilt. He was convicted of beating to death 37-year-old Nancy Weiler of Jacksonville, hitting her 25 times with a revolver. Mrs. Weiler was pregnant. Davis then shot to death her daughters, Kristina, 9, and Katherine, 5. There is no question as to Davis' longstanding eating disorder. When he arrived on death row 16 years ago, at 37, his keepers watched his cholesterol problem and put him on a low-fat diet of 1,500 calories a day. It didn't work. Davis scarfed down chili dogs from the death-row canteen, and other inmates nicknamed him "Tiny." At one point, he ballooned to more than 400 pounds, but his weight eventually stabilized at about 330. He barely could fit into his extra-large, state-issued orange pants and now he wears blue ones. The bed in his cell was too narrow, so the Department of Corrections moved him to a cell for disabled inmates, according to Backhus, his former attorney. The new cell had a larger bed and grab bars to help him sit and stand. Weight wasn't his only problem. As his appeals wended their way through the courts, Davis' hearing deteriorated. Backhus said Davis, who preferred to be called Bud, coped with his obesity and deafness without complaint. "He came to terms with his environment," she said. Even so, his lack of exercise, poor diet and smoking habit took a toll. A few years ago, Davis developed high blood pressure, which can lead to congestive heart failure. His medical records show the prison prescribed a hypertension pill to eliminate excess body fluid. He also was given a wheelchair and a pair of special stockings to reduce leg swelling. But spokesman Morris said that Davis could still walk under his own power, "ever so slowly but he can walk." Davis was diagnosed with osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease common in older people. It was mostly in his hips and knees. He could get in and out of bed by himself, but as time went on, it became more difficult because he lost upper body strength. Then, according to prison records, Davis' hands began to shake. He lost the strength to hold a Styrofoam cup of coffee without spilling it. He also had trouble writing. The prison doctor ruled out Parkinson's disease but prescribed an anti-seizure medication to relieve his hand tremors. It was in 1998 that Davis' appeals ran out and officials at Florida State Prison started worrying about whether their cracked, 74-year-old chair would accommodate someone that hefty. That's when they built the new chair. But while the chair is new, much of the electrical system remains the same. And records show that in tests over the past year the chair's electrical breakers have failed at least four times, said Davis' lawyer, Martin McClain. Similarly, a recording device used to gauge the system's electrical currents indicated a lower-than-required voltage during each of four executions carried out in March 1998, the last time the chair was used. Because fatty tissue is more resistant to electrical current, Davis knows he could face a slow death. * * * When officers came to read Davis the death warrant on June 9, he saw it coming. His crime was heinous, his case had gone on for 16 years, and he had already survived two death warrants, one in 1986 and one in 1992. The victim's husband, Westinghouse executive John Weiler, at one point pleaded with then-Gov. Bob Graham to execute Davis. "My personal life, career and all my dreams, including my home, are all gone," Weiler said at the time. "It is cruel and unusual punishment of the victims living and dead to know that this animal . . . still breathes." The architecture of Florida State Prison, where Davis was transferred for his "death watch," is not designed for wheelchair access. Davis complained that they couldn't get the wheelchair through the door of his cell on X wing. The first night, he fell out of his bunk, which was narrower than the one he had on death row. He weighed 349 pounds, and one of his first visits was from a doctor. With a 350-pound load limit on the electric chair, doctors put him on a strict diet. He joked about finding a way to get cheese doodles. The shower posed a problem. About two weeks ago, Davis lost his balance and fell while stepping up on the scale. He was rushed to get X-rays. Corrections spokesman Morris wouldn't discuss Davis' medical condition, but he said the prison had installed three grab bars in the shower to help Davis steady himself. On death watch, Davis mostly slept and read, books about military history and court briefs offering a detailed description of what could lay in store for him: smoke shooting from inmates' legs, or, worse yet, the mask. A week ago, Davis went on Phase 2 of death watch -- a heightened level of security -- and contact visits stopped. When his brother visited, he spoke through the microphone in the glass but Davis couldn't hear him. Morris said the prison installed a telephone. But there were few social visits. Davis declined to see some of his relatives and wouldn't talk to the Times. "Mr. Davis has had very little to say to anybody," Morris said. When Gainesville lawyer Susan Caryvisited Tuesday, the prisoner seemed tired, she said. He was pasty white and his eyes were red. He believed there would be no stay. "He feels as though he made his peace." On Wednesday, Davis spent the afternoon sitting on his bunk, reading a western novel in his boxer shorts and watching the black-and-white television outside the bars. Visits were planned with two of his lawyers and two brothers, and a prison chaplain was scheduled to shepherd him through the night.

Times researcher Cathy Wos
and the Associated Press
contributed to this report. Provenzano awaits ruling On Tuesday night, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to stop the execution of Provenzano, originally set for this morning. A short time later the Florida Supreme Court granted Provenzano a two-day delay. His execution was set for 7:01 a.m. Friday, a minute after the stay expires Provenzano, condemned for the 1984 shooting of an Orlando bailiff, won his stay with a claim of insanity. But his allegation that the electric chair wouldn't work properly was rejected by both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Florida Supreme Court.

Abuse in prisons called 'routine'

A former prison psychologist tells the Senate
Criminal Justice Committee that violence and
corruption are rampant in state institutions.
St. Petersburg Times,
published September 15, 1999

For three years, prison psychologist Connie Schenk said she repeatedly tried to alert administrators to suspected inmate abuse by corrections officers at two North Florida prisons. And for three years she said prison administrators responded with defensiveness, hostility and retaliation. A frustrated Schenk quit her job Aug. 31, and now she's hoping state lawmakers will pay attention to what she calls chronic problems in Florida's prison system. "I can tell you firsthand that corruption is rampant, abuse of inmates and staff is routine, and coverup is an established practice," Schenk wrote Sept. 13 in a letter to the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. After the violent death of Florida State Prison inmate Frank Valdes on July 17 prompted state and federal criminal investigations, Schenk said she spent about two hours laying out her allegations of abuse to an FBI agent in Tallahassee. Since Valdes' death, the agency has been flooded with allegations of abuse. Before quitting, Schenk, 53, who has a doctorate in forensic psychology, had worked at Taylor Correctional Institution in Perry, at Liberty Correctional Institution in Bristol and, since late July, at the Corrections Mental Health Institution in Chattahoochee. She said she frequently saw injured inmates at Taylor and at Liberty who said they had been beaten by authorities. She said prison administrators had little interest in providing mental health services to inmates and, in some cases, ordered her not to provide mental health treatments she felt were necessary. As a new staffer at Taylor in 1996, Schenk said she routinely filed reports on suspected abuse, but her supervisors and other officers either did nothing about them or became hostile toward her for reporting the incidents. "I went to the warden, Greg Drake, and told him abuse was going on. He just said, "I don't think so, Dr. Schenk,' " she said. "Absolutely nothing would happen. Everybody read (my reports), signed off on them, and then nothing happened." Drake, who now oversees the prisons throughout the Panhandle area, did not return a reporter's phone call Tuesday. Told of Schenk's allegations before noon Tuesday, the department's public information office also did not return phone calls. At Liberty, Schenk said she tried being more "diplomatic" and brought her concerns to supervisors more informally. But, again, she said she only provoked antagonism. Then last spring, another officer told her he was being threatened by guards whom he had seen beating an inmate. Not trusting the system's internal investigators, she said she and the other officer went to the state inspector general, who eventually sent Florida Department of Law Enforcement officers to investigate. The case is still open, the state inspector general's office said Tuesday. Schenk said she had been told that FDLE referred the case back to the Department of Corrections. In July, she said her boss ordered her to immediately clear out her desk because she was being transferred to the mental health prison in Chattahoochee. She viewed it as retaliation for her allegations. Soon after she started at Chattahoochee, the department announced the prison would be converted into a sexual offender facility. Unemployed since Sept. 2, Schenk said she is somewhat relieved to be out of the stressful and threatening atmosphere. "No employee should have to work every day wondering if they're going to be set up or if they're going to be hurt," she said in an interview. "I tried so hard to work within the system to make change. I reported to my supervisors, and I went up the ladder. The only reason I'm coming forward now, talking to you, is because that really is the last step."

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