Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Florida Court Denies Lambrix's Innocence Appeal

After denying review and final disposition of Michael Lambrix’s state post conviction appeal arguing newly discovered evidence that substantiates Lambrix’s consistently pled claim of innocence for many years, in a bizarre and even absurd ruling the Florida Supreme Court has categorically denied all relief, finding that the virtual wealth of evidence presented by Lambrix is not credible. See, Lambrix v. State, 2010 WL 1488028 (Fla.) (opinion released on April 15th, 2010)

As those who have followed this wholly circumstantial capital case already know, and as the state has repeatedly conceded itself, the state’s entire case was based upon the testimony of Lambrix’s estranged ex-girlfriend Frances Smith-Ottinger. Although, Lambrix’s conviction and sentence of death were exclusively based upon the credibility of Smith-Ottinger, in denying Lambrix relief the Florida Supreme Court has now declared Smith-Ottinger “not credible.” Of course, the court has made no attempt to explain how in a wholly circumstantial case (no eyewitnesses, no physical or forensic evidence, no confessions, etc.) dependent upon the credibility of a single key witness; the capital conviction and sentence of death can still be upheld when the same witness has now been declared “not credible.”

Apparently, the Florida Supreme Court’s concept of credibility is flexible and subjectively applied – as long as a witness is providing favorable testimony for the state to secure a conviction, even in a wholly circumstantial case; the witness is credible. But if and when that same witness provides testimony contrary to the interests of the state, then the witness is not credible. That is how justice is administered in Florida.

The Florida Supreme Court’s absurd conclusions actually are not about whether or not the state’s key witness Smith-Ottinger is credible. What this case is really about is the Florida Supreme Courts unethical and constitutionally reprehensible protection of the Florida Supreme Court’s Chief Justice, Peggy Quince. If putting an innocent man to death is necessary to protect Chief Justice Quince from allegations of misconduct, then so be it.

Although not mentioned in the recent denial of relief, but fully detailed in the appeal briefs submitted in this case; Chief Justice Peggy Quince was previously an Assistant Attorney General and part of the prosecution team during Lambrix’s initial post conviction proceedings prior to her political appointment to the Florida Supreme Court. (All appeal briefs in this case can be found and read under the hearing-briefs tab at SouthernInjustice.net)

In her former capacity, Chief Justice Quince was (“allegedly”) personally complicit in the prosecutorial misconduct in this capital case. Lambrix filed a motion to disqualify the Florida Supreme Court (click here to read this motion in its entirety), which the Florida Supreme Court summarily denied even though their own recent decision in other cases, required disqualification; see, Wickham v. State, 998 So. 2d 593 (Fla. 2008). Apparently the Florida Supreme Court is not bound by its own established law.

What is clear by the Florida Supreme Courts ruling is they would rather put an innocent man to death than risk having Chief Justice Quinces own alleged acts of misconduct exposed. The fact that the Florida Supreme Court refused to even address the virtual wealth of evidence presented (see, appeal briefs) and the pled allegations of prosecutorial misconduct that collectively establish that the key witness Smith-Ottinger and the states lead investigator conspired and collaborated together to deliberately fabricate this wholly circumstantial case of alleged premeditated murder shows the Florida Supreme Court simply will not allow their Chief Justice’s own complicity in this deliberate miscarriage of justice to even be discussed.

At trial, in addition to Smith-Ottinger’s testimony that Lambrix told her that he had killed the two deceased, apparently “to take their car,” (which it should be noted, this vehicle was subsequently found in the exclusive possession of Smith-Ottinger, not Lambrix), the state presented testimony from Deborah Hanzel, who testified that Lambrix has also told her that he killed the couple to take the car. However, Hanzel has since provided sworn testimony that her trial testimony was deliberately fabricated – that key witness Smith-Ottinger and the state’s investigator deliberately coerced her to provide this false testimony in a conspiracy to ensure that Lambrix would be convicted and to protect Smith-Ottinger from prosecution herself. (Deborah Hanzel’s sworn affidavit can be read in its entirety by clicking here.)

The Florida Supreme Court now finds that Hanzel’s testimony that she was coerced to provide false testimony is “not reliable” and of course the court conveniently refused to consider any of the evidence that supports Hanzel’s claim that the key witness Smith-Ottinger and the state worked together to deliberately fabricate the entire wholly circumstantial theory of alleged premeditated murder – evidence that if fully and fairly addressed cannot be credibly disputed.

Again the Florida Supreme Court relies upon the absurd conclusion that when Deborah Hanzel testified for the state, she was the epitome of credibility – but now that she has provided sworn testimony detailing how the key witness Smith-Ottinger and the state had coerced her to provide false testimony, and that they knew all along Lambrix was not guilty of premeditated murder, the Florida Supreme Court finds that Hanzel is not a reliable witness. This is the unwritten rule of law – as long as a witness is providing favorable testimony for the state, then they are credible. If the witness admits to being coerced to lie by the state, then they are no loner credible.

Nothing reflects the Florida Supreme Courts deliberate hypocrisy and distortion of the truth more than the manner in which the Florida Supreme Court addressed Lambrix’s own post conviction testimony. What makes Lambrix’s consistently pled claim of innocence unique is that Lambrix has admitted to being in the company of the two people who were killed and that Lambrix was compelled to hit the male victim only after the make victim attacked and was assaulting the much younger female victim.

Lambrix’s claim of a spontaneous event forcing him to act involuntary self defense when attacked by Clarence Moore/ aka Lawrence Lamberson when Lambrix attempted to stop Moore/Lamberson from violently assaulting the teenage victim Aleisha Bryant is actually supported by the State own evidence, and the state has never provided any evidence to contradict this claim. In fact, the state knew all along that Moore/Lamberson was a career criminal and known associate of “drug smugglers” with a criminal history of violently assaulting other women in the same manner. A fact that the jury was not allowed to hear.

At Lambrix’s trial, the court prohibited Lambrix from testifying so the jury was never allowed to hear Lambrix’s account of what actually happened. It should be noted that key witness Smith-Ottinger also testified that she did not actually see or hear anything that transpired outside that night that led up to and resulted in the couple’s death. Her only claim was that Lambrix subsequently told her he had killed both of them.

During the post conviction proceedings Lambrix was finally provided an opportunity to testify and did then graphically testify to what actually happened outside. As the record shows, the state could not discredit Lambrix’s claim of self defense.

In the recent order denying relief the Florida Supreme Court (at page 11) “Lambrix himself (testified) at this most recent evidentiary hearing that he struck one of he victims using a tire iron, although he denied that he intended to kill either victim.” Incredibly, the Florida Supreme Court actually twisted Lambrix’s own testimony into somehow being a confession of guilt of premeditated murder.

In doing so, the Florida Supreme Court completely ignored the overwhelming weight of the evidence that actually substantiates Lambrix’s claim. As reflected in the trial transcript, the jury was not allowed to know that Moore/Lamberson (the male deceased) had an extensive criminal history, including violently assaulting women. The jury did hear Smith-Ottinger’s own testimony that there was virtually no indication of animosity or intent to commit any crime, between any of the parties. In fact, Smith-Ottinger conceded that Lambrix, Moore/Lamberson and Bryant were “laughing, teasing, and playing around” immediately before Lambrix and Moore/Lamberson went outside during the early morning hours.

Smith-Ottinger specifically testified that Lambrix remained outside with Moore/Lamberson for approximately 20 minutes then returned to the trailer they shared alone. At that time Smith-Ottinger was absolutely certain that Lambrix did not have any blood on him, was not in possession of the alleged murder weapon (a common tire iron) and “looked normal.” According to Smith-Ottinger, Lambrix then went outside again with Aleisha Bryant as she remained inside alone cooking a spaghetti dinner.

Smith-Ottinger claims that Lambrix again returned alone, but this time was “covered with blood” and was carrying the tire iron, and told her “They’re dead” then proceeded to wash up. Smith-Ottinger has consistently claimed that she did not actually hear of see anything that transpired outside and only knows that Lambrix told her he killed them, but she also insisted that “he never said why.”

For this reason, only Lambrix knows what really happened outside. But by looking at the State’s own evidence, it becomes clear that Lambrix’s claim of being compelled to spontaneously act in self defense when attempting to stop Moore/Lamberson from fatally assaulting Aleisha Bryant is, in fact, supported by this undisputed evidence.

At trial key witness Smith-Ottinger testified that Lambrix told her that he had “choked the girl” and had “hit the in the back of the head.” But the states own medical examiner Dr. Robert Shultz concluded that there was no evidence to show that Aleisha Bryant was “choked” or strangled to death. In fact, it is a medical certainty that if a victim is choked or strangled to death, there will be evidence to show this such as hemorrhaging/bruising around the neck and damage to the soft tissue and larynx as well as probable fracture of the hyoid cartilage. And if a person is strangled to death, there will always be “peticule hemorrhaging” visible in the eyes. But medical examiner Shultz found no evidence of any of these tell-tale signs, thus Smith-Ottinger’s claim that Lambrix choked or strangled Bryant cannot be true.

Although a witness might lie, this type of evidence does not. Additionally, it is inconceivable that a healthy young woman who was not restrained in any manner would simply stand by and allow herself to be assaulted and killed without struggling and fighting for her life. Smith-Ottinger has consistently conceded that Lambrix did not have any scratches or bruises on him that would have been consistent with a struggle with Bryant.

However, the state’s own medical examiner Dr. Schultz conceded that Moore/Lamberson actually did have numerous scratches and lacerations consistent with what Bryant would have undoubtedly inflicted if he had struggled with Aleisha Bryant as Lambrix claimed he did.

Further, the medical examiner Dr. Schultz concluded that Aleisha Bryant did not suffer any physical injuries that would have resulted in a substantial loss of blood. (Smith-Ottinger was certain that Lambrix did not have any blood on him when returning to the trailer after Moore/Lamberson went outside, but before Aleisha Bryant went outside). But Dr. Schultz concluded that Moore/Lamberson did have numerous injuries that would have resulted in substantial loss of blood. Thus the only way that Lambrix could have been “covered in blood” after Bryant went out but not before was if Moore/Lamberson was still alive outside when Bryant went out — supporting Lambrix’s claim that all three were together outside and it was a spontaneous event that resulted in their deaths, not “premeditated murder.”

The states own evidence substantiating Lambrix’s claim that he was compelled to act in self defense when attacked by Moore/Lamberson is even stronger. As the trial transcript reflects, the state’s own medical examiner, Dr. Schultz, testified that Moore/Lamberson died as the result of blunt force trauma – being hit in the head with an object consistent with the tire iron.

However, Dr. Schultz testified with absolute certainty that Moore/Lamberson was struck eight times, specifically, that Moore/Lamberson died as the result of “multiple crushing blows to the head… resulting in severe fractures around the eyes and the cheeks,” and that these blows consisted of “eight (blows) – four times to the left frontal forehead, and four times to the right … applied in a continuous side to side motion.” (See, trial transcript, testimony of Dr. Robert Schultz)

More importantly, Dr. Schultz found virtually no evidence of any “defensive wounds,” and all of these blows were administered with Moore/Lamberson facing his assailant, leaving the only logical conclusion that – just as Lambrix claimed, Moore/Lamberson was coming at him and Lambrix was forced to swing in spontaneous self defense.

As if this evidence itself was not enough to substantiate Lambrix’s consistently pled claims of involuntary self defense, while ignoring the overwhelming weight of this irrefutable evidence the Florida Supreme Court also refused to acknowledge the conclusive evidence that key witness Smith-Ottinger and the state did deliberately fabricate evidence to support their allegations of premeditated murder with the intent and purpose of having Lambrix wrongfully convicted and condemned to death.

Specifically, as reflected in the trial transcript, Smith-Ottinger testified that Lambrix had deliberately placed Aleisha Bryant “face down in a pond” to ensure that she would die. This testimony was used to convince the jury that there was no doubt that Lambrix did act with premeditated intent to kill Aleisha Bryant, thus convicting Lambrix of capital premeditated murder.

But there never was any such “pond,” and no question that this extremely prejudicial testimony used to prove actual premeditation was deliberately fabricated to inflame the jury and convince the jury to convict and condemn Lambrix to death.

In the post conviction appeal now before the Florida Supreme Court, Lambrix’s legal counsel pro offered into evidence the sworn affidavit of the owner of the property, who attested under oath that there was no pond in the area where Bryant was killed. Additionally, two expert witnesses provided sworn statements as hydro-engineers and property surveyors that they went to the property and concluded that Smith-Ottinger’s claim that Bryant was placed face down in a pond to ensure she would die simply could not be true.

Not surprisingly, the Florida Supreme Court refused to even address Lambrix’s specifically pled claim of “fundamental miscarriage of justice” based party upon the pro-offered “expert report” of one of the country’s top homicide detectives, William Gaut, who was retained by Lambrix’s legal counsel to independently examine the case against Lambrix.

Mr. Gaut has over 40 years of experience in homicide investigations, and personally taught homicide investigation techniques in college classes. It was Mr. Gaut’s opinion after independently reviewing the case brought against Lambrix that the entire investigation and development of evidence used to convict and condemn Lambrix is “highly suspect” and not consistent with long established protocols. Quite simply, Mr. Gaut concluded that his own independent examination does support that the state’s key witness Smith-Ottinger and the state attorney’s head investigator Miles “Bob” Daniels, did conspire and collaborate together to wrongly convict and condemn Lambrix.

Why would the Florida Supreme Court deliberately ignore the overwhelming weight of this evidence? All of the records in the capital case are posted online, including the trial transcripts, appeal briefs, and other relevant actions so that anyone can read the record and decide for themselves.

The only logical conclusion is that the Florida Supreme Court is willing to deliberately put an innocent man to death for no reason but to protect the Florida Supreme Court Justice Peggy Quince, formally herself part of the prosecution team in this capital case, from being exposed for her own complicity in the prosecutorial misconduct that resulted in Michael Lambrix being – by deliberate intent – wrongfully convicted and condemned to death.

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