Thursday, October 12, 2006

Spurned by area judge, Rolling to appeal to state high court

Spurned by area judge, Rolling to appeal to state high court

Sun staff writer
October 12. 2006 6:01AM

Rolling will take appeal to state's high court after judge refuses itAn appeal over the death sentence of convicted serial killer Danny Rolling will be heading to the Florida Supreme Court after a local judge denied a request to hear arguments on the matter

On Monday, Circuit Judge Stan Morris refused to grant a hearing for Rolling, 52, over issues surrounding lethal injection, finding the claims without merit.

Morris' decision will be appealed, said Rolling's attorney Baya Harrison on Wednesday. Arguments on the appeal currently are scheduled before the Florida Supreme Court on Oct. 18.

Last month Gov. Jeb Bush signed a death warrant for Rolling. His execution has been scheduled for Oct. 25.Rolling pleaded guilty in 1994 to fatally stabbing five college students in their Gainesville homes at the start of the 1990 fall semester.

His victims were Christa Hoyt, 19, of Archer; Sonja Larson, 18, of Deerfield Beach; Tracy Paules, 23, of Miami; Christina Powell, 17, of Jacksonville; and Manuel Taboada, 23, of Miami.

Morris, the same judge who sentenced Rolling to death, denied defense attorney claims involving public record access, cruel and unusual punishment, free speech and an American Bar Association report on the death penalty process in Florida, the judge's court order stated.

Rolling had claimed he was denied public records, held by the Florida Medical Examiner's Office and the Department of Corrections, and needed to challenge the use of chemicals in lethal injections.

But Morris said Rolling had time to request the records before and couldn't "make a public records request to delay his execution."The judge also noted the Florida Supreme Court has determined lethal injection is not cruel and unusual punishment and that there was no evidence the chemicals used for the death sentence would be improperly administered.

One of the defense's four claims said Rolling would be denied his right to free speech if he was not properly anaesthetized and therefore couldn't communicate if he was experiencing pain.

Morris rejected a final claim that an American Bar Association report on the death penalty system in Florida is newly discovered evidence showing this is cruel and unusual punishment. The report is a compilation of previously gathered facts, inapplicable to this case or not within the scope of the court reviewing it, Morris wrote.

After Rolling's death warrant was signed, State Attorney Bill Cervone had said he did not believe there were additional "substantive issues" for the courts to consider in Rolling's case. However, he said, there likely would be last-minute attempts to delay an execution.If an appeal is denied by the Florida Supreme Court, the case would then be headed to the federal courts for final consideration.

Lise Fisher can be reached at (352) 374-5092 or

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