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refuses to delay inmate's execution
Amos Lee King loses his bid to use a U.S. Supreme Court case
as grounds for a stay of his Jan. 24 appointment with death.
By KATHERINE GAZELLA, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times - published January 15, 2002
A judge on Monday denied a stay of execution for a death
row inmate scheduled to die next week for the 1977 killing
of a Tarpon Springs widow.
Attorneys for Amos Lee King had asked for a stay of King's
Jan. 24 execution in light of a death penalty case the U.S.
Supreme Court has agreed to hear.
The high court decided Friday to hear Ring vs. Arizona,
which questions whether it is constitutional for a judge,
rather than a jury, to decide if a convicted murderer receives
a death sentence.
The court's decision in the case could affect nearly 800
death sentences in nine states, including Florida. Florida is
one of four states where juries can recommend whether a
convicted murderer gets the death sentence, but a judge
makes the final decision.
After an emergency hearing Monday, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit
Judge Susan Schaeffer ruled that the Arizona case is
different from King's case in several ways. For one thing,
juries in Arizona have no say about whether a defendant is
sentenced to death.
Attorneys for both sides said the issue of the U.S. Supreme
Court case could come up in a hearing today before the
Florida Supreme Court.
"All we're asking is, why don't we wait for the Supreme
Court?" said Peter Cannon, an attorney with Capital
Collateral Regional Counsel, which is defending King.
An assistant attorney general said Ring vs. Arizona is not
relevant to King's case.
"I really don't think it applies to their situation," Stephen Ake
King has been on death row for 25 years, longer than
anyone else from Pinellas County. He was convicted in
1977 of raping and murdering 68-year-old Natalie Brady
after escaping from the Tarpon Springs Work Release
Mrs. Brady lived alone in a one-story house near the work
release center. King, then 22, was serving time for a parole
violation and had a work-release job washing dishes at a
Prosecutors said he escaped the Tarpon Springs facility and
went to Mrs. Brady's home. He raped, choked and stabbed
her and set fire to her house. Corrections Officer James
"Dan" McDonough saw him trying to get back into the
correctional facility. The two struggled and McDonough was
stabbed 24 times.
King ran away but turned himself in to authorities the
following day. Later that year, jurors recommended that he
be put to death.
When Gov. Jeb Bush signed King's death warrant in
November, many Tarpon Springs residents said it was long
King has maintained his innocence. In other ongoing
appeals, King's attorneys have stated that key evidence that
could be used for DNA testing to exonerate King was lost
by the Pinellas Medical Examiner's Office years ago. The
evidence included vaginal washings and a rectal swab taken
from Mrs. Brady. King's attorneys said that evidence could
have been tested using DNA technology not available in
Last week, King failed in his attempt to fire his attorneys. He
called them "corrupt and incompetent," but Schaeffer denied
his request and said his attorneys are doing everything they
can to save his life.
The 47-year-old man said his attorneys
were pro-state and failed to use evidence he provided them. A Pinellas-Pasco
circuit judge disagrees.
LARGO -- A man awaiting a Jan. 24 execution for the 1977 killing of a Tarpon Springs woman failed on Friday in his bid to fire his attorneys because he says they are "corrupt and incompetent."
Amos Lee King, 47, asked a Pinellas-Pasco judge for permission to fire his attorneys after complaining about a litany of problems, including his perception that they are pro-state and that they failed to use new evidence he has provided them.
But Circuit Judge Susan Schaeffer denied his request, telling King that attorneys for Capital Collateral Regional Counsel are providing him excellent representation and doing all they can to save his life.
King, who has a history of firing his attorneys, sought the appointment of different attorneys from another Capital Collateral office and threatened to drop all his appeals if the judge didn't grant his wish.
"You don't do yourself or them any favors
by constantly haranguing them," Schaeffer told King after a three-hour
hearing. "They've got work to do. . . .
This isn't really the time."
King backed down from his threat to drop his appeals after Schaeffer warned him that doing so guaranteed his execution.
"You're not going to be here on the 24th if you throw out your appeal this time," the judge told him.
King, during an often rambling and disjointed discourse, accused Schaeffer of "being extremely hostile" in questioning him about his complaints. "You interrupt my chain of thoughts," he said.
"Let the record reflect," Schaeffer responded, "I only raised my voice a couple of times and I think that is remarkable. Look at these bailiffs grinning. They can't believe how patient I've been."
At one point, King complained that his attorneys hadn't done enough to explain why the clothing he wore the day of the killing disappeared. He appeared to suggest that his attorneys ignored his requests to help him find the clothing.
He said the clothes aren't bloody, as they would be if he were the killer. The production of that unblemished clothing, he said, would exonerate him.
But Schaeffer had little patience for the complaint, noting that King is the reason the clothing disappeared. He admits getting rid of it before his arrest.
"I turned them over to someone," King said.
"Not the police," the judge said. "You got rid of them, didn't you?"
"I didn't throw those clothes away," King said, saying he gave them to a friend. "If that person (were) still living, I'd be out of prison today."
The Florida Supreme Court ordered Schaeffer to hold Friday's hearing to see if there was merit to his claims about the attorney's incompetence. The hearing was attended by death penalty opponents.
On July 8, 1977, a jury convicted King of murdering 68-year-old Natalie Brady after escaping from the Tarpon Springs Work Release Center, where he was serving time for a parole violation.
He raped, choked and stabbed her and then set fire to her house. He was then spotted by corrections officer James "Dan" McDonough trying to get back into the correctional facility. The two struggled and McDonough was stabbed 24 times.
King fled, but he surrendered to authorities the following day.
The next step for King's attorneys is oral arguments before the Florida Supreme Court on Tuesday. The lawyers say that key evidence that could be used for DNA testing to exonerate King was long ago lost by the Pinellas Medical Examiner's Office.
April Haughey, one of King's lawyers,
said that evidence -- a sample of the attacker's semen -- could have been
tested using DNA technology not available in 1977 and might have helped
In Clearwater, a Circuit Court judge
rejected a condemned inmate's
request for new lawyers Friday, removing one more roadblock to his Jan.
24 execution for the 1977 murder of a Tarpon Springs widow. Judge Susan
Schaeffer said Amos King has no valid reason to switch attorneys. King is
scheduled to be executed for the stabbing death of 68-year-old Natalie
He had filed a handwritten petition
accusing his publicly financed
lawyers, April Haughey and Richard Kiley, of being pro-state and failing
to use new evidence he gave them. The state Supreme Court ordered the
King accused Kiley and Haughey of being
"corrupt and incompetent" during
a hearing that lasted nearly 3 hours and at times was disjointed and
Schaeffer said Haughey and Kiley worked
on King's case on both Christmas
Eve and New Years Eve, and found a skillful way to get their points
before the court through attachments when they were told to hold their
motion to a 25-page limit.
"And you have the audacity to file papers
calling them corrupt?" the
judge told King. "Don't you think that's a little unfair?"
One by one, Schaeffer went over the
claims King, 47, raised in his 9-page
motion. She listened while the longtime death row inmate explained his
King maintained a 2nd paring knife was
found and discarded, that police
lied, his trial attorney was ineffective, he had trouble contacting his
lawyers and he was not given a chance to testify.
Assistant State Attorney Marie King
said the issues King raised had no
Several times during the hearing, Schaeffer
reprimanded him for
interrupting or speaking out while she was talking.
As the hearing wore down, King told her she lacked patience.
"You have been extremely hostile since
you've been asking me questions,"
he said. "You interrupted my chain of thought."
Schaeffer replied: "Let the record reflect
I only raised my voice a
couple times, and I think that is remarkable. I have been very patient.
Trust me. Look at these bailiffs grinning, they can't believe how patient
After a brief recess, King apologized.
Later, Haughey said she was preparing
for oral arguments Tuesday before
the state Supreme Court.
For 24 years, King has maintained his innocence.
The case against him was circumstantial,
Haughey said. The only piece of
evidence that could exonerate him through DNA testing - a sample from a
vaginal washing - has been lost.
Before the hearing, 20 death penalty
protesters held a brief news
conference outside the courthouse. "Execute justice, not people," read
buttons worn by Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.
"The system is undermined when you have
political appointees who answer
to a governor who refuses to recognize there are serious flaws in the
death penalty system in this state," said Abe Bonowitz, the group's
(source: Associated Press)
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