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Spaziano awaits decision

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Spaziano awaits decision


Capital punishment
Spaziano, Joe


Convicted murderer, Joseph "Crazy Joe" Spaziano awaits decision from Florida Supreme Court regarding his request for a stay of execution. Spaziano is due to be sent to the electric chair in two weeks. His attorney, Michael Mello, argues that Spaziano is innocent, citing faulty testimony from Florida Department of Law Enforcement.


Associated Press


Associated Press. "Spaziano Awaits Decision," The Gainesville Sun, September 8, 1995


HIST 298, University of Mary Washington




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Tallahassee, Florida

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[Title] Spaziano awaits decision
[Author] The Associated Press
[Begin article]
Tallahassee--An attorney for Joseph "Crazy Joe" Spaziano asked the state supreme court for a chance to prove his client is innocent of the murder sending him to the electric chair in two weeks.

A lawyer for the state, however, urged the justices not to stay Spaziano's execution on "mere speculation."

After hearing oral arguments Thursday, Florida's high court will make a decision at its own discretion; Spaziano, 49, is scheduled to be executed Sept, 21 for the murder-mutilation of an Orlando woman 22 years ago.

During the hour-long hearing, justices and lawyers had exchanges about testimony at a trial held nearly 20 years ago, about judicial procedure, about the role of the state's high court in reviewing capital cases.

"The proceeding before us has taken a rather free form," Justice Harry Lee Anstead told Spaziano attorney Michael Mello. "This is the way you have approached this case before the court, and it's obviously causing us considerable difficulty."

Mello, a Vermont law professor, has filed hundreds of pages of pleadings before Florida's high court, but he began his presentation by telling justices that all the issues were secondary because his client did not kill Laura Lynn Harberts.

The 18-year-old hospital clerk's body was found in an Altamonte Springs dump in August 1973.

"I believe that if I had an opportunity to prove Mr. Spaziano's innocence before a jury, he would be acquitted," Mello said. "All I'm asking for...is a stay of execution and the provision of resources."

Anthony Dilisio, a key prosecution witness in Spaziano's trial, recanted his testimony earlier this year, prompting Gov. Lawton Chiles to suspend Spaziano's fourth death warrant. However, after an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement into the recent comments by Dilisio, Chiles said he had no doubts about the case and signed a fifth death warrant last month.

Mello questioned the reliability of the FDLE investigation, which the governor has refused to release, as "supersecret [sic] information that supposedly reliable witnesses supposedly told FDLE that supposedly correctly reported to the governor."

But Anstead questioned the strength of Mello's appeal before Florida's high court.

"I can't imagine new evidence more substantial than a disavowal of the critical testimony by the witness," Mello answered.

If Mello had filed the proper motion in trial court, he would have been required to meet two tests, Anstead said. The first test is whether the recanted testimony was substantial enough to undercut Spaziano's conviction; the second is whether the issue should have been raised earlier.

Anstead asked Mello if he could have jumped through "those two ordinary hoops."

Justice Ben Overton then interrupted the attorney, asking why he had not presented an affidavit from Dilisio recanting his testimony. [end article]

[image by photographer Smith, Dede; Spaziano talks about his scheduled execution at Florida State Prison]

Original Format

Newspaper article

Contributor of the Digital Item

O'Neill, Christopher

Student Editor of the Digital Item

Williams, Megan




Associated Press, “Spaziano awaits decision,” HIST298, accessed January 16, 2021, http://hist298.umwhistory.org/items/show/212.