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Thread: Guerry Hertz - Florida

  1. #1
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    Guerry Hertz - Florida




    Summary of Offense:

    The bodies of Melanie King and Robin Keith Spears were found in their burning home in the early morning hours of July 27, 1997. On July 26, 1997, Guerry Hertz, Jason Looney, and Jimmy Dempsey left an acquaintance’s house on foot, which was within walking distance of the victims’ home, at approximately 11 p.m. A woman who lived approximately 500 yards from the victims’ home said that, at approximately 2 a.m., Hertz came to her home requesting to use her telephone because “his truck had broken down.” She refused and the three men resumed their walk up the road towards the home of Melanie King and Robin Keith Spears. When Looney saw their black Ford Mustang, he exclaimed, “There’s my car right there. That’s the one I want.”

    Acting as a decoy, Dempsey and Hertz knocked on the victims’ front door and asked if they could use a telephone. King gave them a cordless telephone and Dempsey pretended to make a call. When Dempsey started to hand the phone back to King, Hertz forced his way into the home at gunpoint. Looney entered after him and targeted Spears with his rifle. King and Spears were forced face down on their bed after being bound and gagged with duct tape. The three defendants stole various items including a television, a VCR, furniture, jewelry, CDs, and $1500 cash. They loaded the stolen goods into the victims’ two vehicles. Hertz and Looney decided that they could not leave witnesses and then informed Dempsey of their plan. Dempsey testified that Hertz and Looney poured accelerants throughout the house, after which all three men went back to the bedroom armed. King told the defendants that she would “rather die being burnt up than shot.” She then stated, “Please, God, don’t shoot me in the head.” Hertz replied, “Sorry, can’t do that,” before he started firing his firearm.

    Looney started firing and was followed by Dempsey. Both King and Spears died as a result of the gunshot wounds. After the shootings, the house was set afire. Looney drove away in the victims’ Ford Mustang with Dempsey as a passenger, while Hertz drove the victims’ white Ford Ranger. Dempsey reported that the entire episode spanned two hours. They drove to Hertz’ house so that they could divide the money and unload the stolen cargo. Testimony was given by two Tallahassee Wal-Mart employees stating that the three men showed off their new vehicles, a black Ford Mustang and a white Ford Ranger, after making a purchase at approximately 5 a.m. The employees’ testimony was corroborated by a Wal-Mart receipt for clothes that was found in the victims’ Ford Mustang.

    Looney, Hertz, and Dempsey then drove to Daytona Beach, Florida, where they were involved in a shootout after a police pursuit. Looney and Dempsey abandoned the victims’ Ford Mustang and were arrested as they were fleeing the scene. Hertz was shot, abandoned the victims’ Ford Ranger and paid $100 for a cab-ride to his aunt’s St. Augustine home. Hertz was arrested that day and police discovered Spears’ .9mm gun in Hertz’s bag. An FDLE firearms expert testified that one of the bullets fired in the victims’ home was fired from a .380 Lorcin gun that was in Looney’s possession when he was arrested. The Lorcin gun had belonged to Spears and Dempsey reported that Hertz had used it to shoot the victims. The police also found Dempsey’s wallet containing $380, Looney’s wallet containing $464, and a roll of duct tape in the victims’ Ford Mustang. Latent fingerprints that matched all three men were taken from the victims’ Ford Mustang. Evidence of various accelerants were found on clothing in the victim’s Ford Mustang and an expert later testified that the extensive fire damage to the victims’ home could only have been accomplished with the use of accelerants. The bodies of Melanie King and Robin Keith Spears were both severely burned, but the medical examiner testified that both deaths were caused by gunshot wounds due to a lack of soot in the victims’ trachea, indicating that they were already dead when the fire started. Further testimony indicated that both victims lived one to two minutes after being shot.

    Hertz was sentenced to death in Wakulla County on February 18, 2000.

    Co-defendant information:
    For his part in the crimes, Jason Looney received two death sentences. For more on Looney, see: http://www.cncpunishment.com/forums/...oto=nextnewest
    Jimmy Dempsey entered into a plea agreement with the State and was sentenced to life in prison.

  2. #2
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    Case Information:

    A Direct Appeal was filed with the Florida Supreme Court on 03/03/00. Issues that were raised on appeal included whether the trial court erred by admitting gruesome photographs of the bodies, whether the trial court erred in finding Hertz competent to stand trial, and whether the trial was prejudiced by the extensive details of the collateral crimes in Volusia County. The Florida Supreme Court found all of the claims either harmless or without merit and affirmed the conviction and sentence on 11/01/01.

    A Petition for Writ of Certiorari was filed with the United States Supreme Court on 03/20/02 and was denied on 06/28/02.

    A 3.851 Motion was filed with the State Circuit Court on 06/30/03 and was amended on 03/09/04. On 12/30/04, the Motion was denied.

    A 3.851 Motion Appeal was filed with the Florida Supreme Court on 01/12/05, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. On 06/22/06, the FSC affirmed the denial of the motion.

    On 10/31/06, Hertz filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in the United States District Court, Northern District. That petition was denied on 09/25/09.

    On 10/30/09, Hertz filed an Appeal for a Writ of Habeas Corpus with the United States Court of Appeals, 11th District. This appeal was denied on 10/22/10.

    On 01/20/11, Hertz filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari with the United States Supreme Court. On 04/04/11 this petition was denied.

  3. #3
    Administrator Aaron's Avatar
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    In today's opinions, the Florida Supreme Court granted Hertz's petition for a writ of habeas corpus and vacated his death sentence in light of Hurst.

    http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/d...7/sc17-456.pdf
    If we showed a caveman technology, he'd think it was magic. If we showed a modern man magic, he'd think it was technology.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Frequent Poster johncocacola's Avatar
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    Was this sentence vacated because SCOTUS denied Cert 4 days after Ring? I thought it was the day the FSC decided it.

  5. #5
    Moderator Dave from Florida's Avatar
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    Hertz just happened to have his direct appeal at SCOTUS when Ring was decided. They denied certiorari and should have vacated and remanded to FSC for consideration of Ring. But they didn't and it took 14 years for them to hear a case from Florida despite hundreds of cases raising the issue.

    This misled the lower courts and the state. The FSC more or less admitted they were wrong on Ring applying to Florida back in 2002 and granted relief to all inmates who were not Final when Ring was decided.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Frequent Poster johncocacola's Avatar
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    Thank you Dave. When FFM asked you the same question I thought you said that when FSC affirms it's final but I just now noticed SCOTUS has to deny Cert as well. I feel bad for the state as they missed this one by the skin of their tooth.

  7. #7
    Senior Member CnCP Addict FFM's Avatar
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    It's still a bogus decision whether they were 'final' or not. What the 5 (now 4) judges on the court did was undo thousands of hours of tough work of police and prosecutors that put those thugs exactly where they belong - on death row. I'm far more amazed at the fact that were was no major outcry within the state, or even the country, for that matter. Finally, the FSC did more harm than good because now tons of them will be resentenced to LWOP or death again and the entire process has to begin from scratch, costing us tons of money and time in the process. What they should have done at most is apply Hurst to cases that went to trial after Hurst was decided, and have the legislature call for unanimous jury votes.

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