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Spaziano case sent to Sanford for appeal
The state Supreme Court said a lower court must decide whether he should get a stay

Dublin Core


Spaziano case sent to Sanford for appeal
The state Supreme Court said a lower court must decide whether he should get a stay


Capital punishment
Spaziano, Joe.


Describes how Anthony DiLisio, a prime witness in the Spaziano case, recanted his original statement and how the Florida Supreme Court plans to handle it.


Griffin, Michael
Leusner, Jim


Griffin, Michael and Jim Leusner "Spaziano Case sent to Sanford for Appeal", The Orlando Sentinel , September 9, 1995.


HIST 298, University of Mary Washington




The materials in this online collection are held by Special Collections, Simpson Library, University of Mary Washington and are available for educational use. For this purpose only, you may reproduce materials without prior permission on the condition that you provide attribution of the source.


2 JPGs
300 DPI




Orlando, FL

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[first page]

Spaziano Case sent to Sanford for appeal

The state Supreme Court said a lower court must decide whether he should get a stay.

by Michael Griffin and Jim Leusner
Of the Sentinel Staff

[start of the first column]
TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Supreme Court refused Friday to halt the execution of Joseph “Crazy Joe” Spaziano, but ordered a Sanford court to hear new evidence that a key witness in the 1976 murder trial lied.

In a split decision, the justices determined the state’s high court had no reason to consider the appeal and that Spaziano’s attorney was arguing his case in the wrong court. But they also agreed the issues raised could be compelling enough for a lower court to grant a stay.

All the justices agreed the matter should be heard this Friday in Sanford. Three of the seven judges dissented in part, arguing that Spaziano, 49, should get an immediate stay.

The ruling sets up a scramble by lawyers to prepare for a hearing just six days before Spaziano’s scheduled execution for the 1973 murder of Orlando hospital clerk Laura Lynn Harberts.

Anthony Frank DiLisio, the witness who put Spaziano on death row with his testimony, likely will have to tell a judge and a prosecutor that he lied then and continued to lie for
Please see Spaziano, A-11
[end of the first column]
[end of page one]

[start of page two]
DiLisio now says he lied on purpose
Spaziano from A-1

[start of the first column]
20 years.

Art Harberts, Laura Harberts’s [sic] father, said he will attend the hearing and expressed dismay Friday that DiLisio “can’t or won’t get his story straight.”

The last time he saw DiLisio was at the trial, when DiLisio, then 17, was the star witness.

“Tony impressed ne as a good kid,” Harberts said. “He apologized to us, you know, Laura’s family, for not coming forward sooner and saving us all the anguish.”

A key factor in Friday’s ruling appears to be an affidavit filed by attorney Michael ello in which DiLisio swears for the first he that he lied at the trial.

“I never, under any circumstances, went to the dump sight [sic] with Joseph Spaziano,” the affidavit reads. “I went there in the company of law enforcement investigators.”

It is the first statement DiLisio has made under oath since the trial, in which he told jurors that Spaziano bragged about raping and killing women, then showed him the bodies of Harberts and an unidentified woman at a dump near Altamonte Springs.

It is the latest version of the story DiLisio has given since he first told The Miami Herald in June that his testimony was false.

Shortly after that, DiLisio told Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents that he thought police drugged him during hypnosis and planted the memories. The interview was videotaped, but FDLE spokesman Liz Hirst said Friday that DiLisio was no under oath when he made the statements.
[end of the first column]

[start of the second column]
Still later he told The Orlando Sentinel he remembered . . . the dump with Spaziano . . . thought those memories were planted in his mind through hypnosis. DiLisio also said Seminole County sheriff’s detective George Abbgy threatened to charge him with complicity in the cries if he did not implicate Spaziano.

Then in a column in Friday’s Miami Herald, DiLisio was quoted as saying: “It came from me. No-body could program me to do anything I didn’t want to do. I wanted to do it. But it was false.”

All those versions vary greatly from sworn statements DiLisio gave 20 years ago.

On May 13, 1975, detectives taped DiLisio recalling how Spaziano bragged about mutilating women and offering to be hypnotized in the hopes it would help him remember.

DiLisio was hypnotized May 15 and 16. During the second session he described going to the dump with Spaziano and seeing and smelling the bodies.

Questioned by Spaziano’s lawyer and a prosecutor on Nov. 12, 1975, DiLisio said again that the biker he once idolized had taken him to the dump and displayed the bodies.

During the January 1976 trial, DiLisio, again under oath, told jurors the same story, even after his life had been threatened by Spaziano’s friends in the Outlaws motorcycle gang.

Former Seminole County Assistant State Attorney Claude Van Hook, who prosecuted Spaziano, said he thinks DiLisio told the truth during the trial but is now recanting out of fear.

Van Hook said DiLisio withstood grueling cross-examination by Spaziano’s attorney, Ed Kirkland, and did not waver when faced with Outlaws members sitting in court. Kirkland called DiLisio a “great witness.”
[end of the second column]

[start of the third column]
“This young man had the ring truth,” Van Hook said. “He was afraid of Spaziano’s associates and still had the intestinal fortitude to get on the stand and tell the truth. Who would believe he lied?”

Mello, Spaziano’s attorney, could not be reached for comment Friday. He has refused to speak to The Orlando Sentinel.

Gov. Lawton Chiles, who signed a fifth warrant for Spaziano after an FDLE investigation turned up witnesses to corroborate DiLisio’s original story, did not waver in that decision Friday.

Dexter Douglass, Chiles general counsel, said he thought Friday’s ruling was a good one.

He added that DiLisio’s sworn affidavit “means no more than any of his other sworn statements. Let’s see what happens when he’s challenged by a prosecutor and other witnesses get a chance to testify”
[end of the third column]

[end of article]

Original Format

Newspaper Article

Contributor of the Digital Item

Stell, Nicole

Student Editor of the Digital Item

Williams, Megan




Griffin, Michael and Leusner, Jim, “Spaziano case sent to Sanford for appeal
The state Supreme Court said a lower court must decide whether he should get a stay,” HIST298, accessed January 16, 2021, http://hist298.umwhistory.org/items/show/217.