The Tampa Bay Times reports that the Florida State Attorney Aramis Ayala has rejected the appeal made on behalf of William Thomas Zeigler to have his pre-trial evidence from the 70s tested with modern DNA technology.
Ayala denied this request “even though her conviction integrity unit urged her in April to grant it, saying it was Florida’s “moral” obligation.” And that isn’t all. They didn’t bother to inform the defense attorneys that the appeal was denied.
The decision to deny “appears to have been made in the middle of the summer after the integrity unit chief’s departure, documents obtained by the Tampa Bay Times show.” Is this is a violation of procedure as requests for appeals had to be formally made? Thoughts anyone?
The paper notes that Monique Haughton Worrell was the conviction integrity unit’s first director. She combined both the experiences of a career in law enforcement (former Dallas detective for 30 years) and law. She thought that Zeigler did deserve to have his pre-trial evidence from the 70s examined with modern DNA technology.
On April 10, 2019 she wrote a memo to Ayala about her concerns. “If additional DNA testing can provide closure of issues related to Mr. Zeigler’s conviction, the State has a moral obligation to embrace the opportunity to show that ‘they did it right.” She continued with stating that Zeigler got “a less than fair trial.”
Unfortunately, after the memo the first director was replaced on July 8 with Amanda Sampaio Bova, Zeigler’s request was denied, and nobody informed Zeigler’s defense team about this. Bova didn’t see how retesting could lead to an exoneration. With that she basically mimicked Former State Attorney Jeffrey L. Ashton who always said that nothing would have changed the minds of the jury even if they were presented with new takes on the matter. It would not have changed the outcome.
Ashton has always resisted Zeigler’s requests for DNA reviews as he thought nothing of testing pre-trial evidence from the 70s with modern technology. I wonder if being a judge now will change his mind on using modern technology in old cases.
For those unfamiliar with the case: In December 1975, a quadruple murder took place in the Zeigler Furniture Store (Winter Garden, Florida). The victims were Charles Mays, Virginia and Perry Edwards, and their daughter Eunice Edwards-Zeigler. The fifth victim, William Thomas Zeigler, became the sole suspect because he survived.
The case is riddled by police misconduct (lying on the stand), prosecutorial misconduct (withheld evidence), and forensic testing disproving the orifinal charges. I have written many posts about this case so I gave Zeigler his own category. Check the left margin or click here.