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Daniel Jon Peterka - Florida Death Row
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Thread: Daniel Jon Peterka - Florida Death Row

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    Daniel Jon Peterka - Florida Death Row




    Summary of Offense:

    On February 11, 1989, Daniel Jon Peterka was scheduled to report to authorities in Nebraska to begin serving two consecutive one-year prison terms for theft. Prior to surrendering, Peterka revealed to his girlfriend at the time that he did not want to go to jail and that he wanted to get a job and establish himself somewhere else. Peterka appeared in Niceville, Florida, in late February 1989. He moved in with Ronald LeCompte. LeCompte bought a .357 magnum handgun for Peterka as a favor. In April of 1989, Peterka moved to a duplex that he shared with John Russell. Witnesses stated that the two did not have a good relationship.

    On June 27, 1989, Peterka acquired a driver’s license with Russell’s name and his own picture. He then cashed a $300 money order sent to Russell by a relative. When Russell realized that he had not received the money order, he became suspicious of Peterka. Russell obtained a copy of the money order from a relative and related his suspicions to the bank. A bank employee, in turn, stated that a formal charge of forgery could begin only when the original copy of the money order was received. A number of witnesses testified that Russell did not plan on confronting Peterka about the missing money order because he was uncomfortable due to the gun being in the house. Peterka’s girlfriend, Frances Thompson, stated that Russell helped her move her belongings out of the duplex on the morning of July 12, 1989. According to Thompson, on the night on July 12, 1989, Peterka appeared at Thompson’s job driving Russell’s car. He took Thompson out to dinner and explained that he was a fugitive and that he did not want go to prison. Frances stayed the night at the duplex and then left for work the next morning. Russell did not show up for work on the morning of July 13, 1989. A co-worker, Gary Johnson, went to the duplex around 9:00 a.m. and stated that he saw Russell’s car in the driveway. Concerned about Russell, the coworker let himself into the duplex via a window when no one answered the door. He noticed that the cushions from the couch were missing and, after locating the gun, noted that it was unloaded. He returned after work and questioned Peterka about Russell. Peterka denied any knowledge of Russell’s whereabouts, stating only that he had left with someone the night before. Johnson filed a missing person report with the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Department that night.

    Deputy Harkins went to the duplex to follow up on the report. Peterka again reiterated that he did not know where Russell was, stating only that he had left with “a long haired guy” the night before. Peterka gave Deputy Harkins a birth certificate as identification, stating that he had lost his driver’s license. Deputy Harkins ran a computer check on Peterka and learned that he was a fugitive from Nebraska and was considered “armed and dangerous.” Peterka was arrested on July 14, 1989, at 1:30 a.m. The deputies searched the duplex and found the gun. Peterka told the deputies that the gun belonged to a friend and showed them the bill of sale. The gun was not confiscated. The deputies found a driver’s license with Peterka’s picture and Russell’s name, Russell’s Social Security card, other identification belonging to Russell, $407, a newspaper clipping advertising jobs in Alaska, and Peterka’s Nebraska driver’s license in Peterka’s wallet. Peterka phoned Frances Thompson from jail and asked her to remove some items from the duplex and save them. Frances found a shovel in the trunk of the victim’s car and noticed that the cushions for the couch were outside. She called the Sheriff’s Department and reported her findings. The gun was transferred to the deputies’ possession and a police search revealed possible bloodstains on the couch were the cushions had been and on the carpet beneath the couch. Bloodstains were also found in the trunk of the car and on the tail lights.

    On July 18, 1989, Peterka called his boss, “Shorty” Purvis, and asked him to visit him in jail. During their meeting, Peterka admitted killing Russell. Peterka told police that he had forged Russell’s signature on the money order and that he had paid Russell $100 to use his identification. When discussing the money order, Russell started shoving Peterak and the two ended up fighting in the living room. Both reached for the gun, and Peterka won. As Russell got up from the couch, the gun accidentally went off and shot Russell in the top of the head. Peterka wrapped Russell’s body in a rug and drove him to a remote part of Eglin Air Force Base and buried him in a shallow grave. Peterka took officials to the body. The medical examiner testified that the wound was consistent with the victim being shot from behind while he was in a reclining position. A firearms expert testified that the gun used to kill Russell was in good working order and that it would not fire accidentally, due to the fact that the gun had two safety mechanisms.

    Peterka was sentenced to death in Okaloosa County on April 25, 1990.

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    August 1, 2008

    Eleventh Circuit affirms denial of habeas relief to Florida death row inmate

    On July 2, 2008, the Eleventh Circuit (Anderson with Edmondson and Dubina) affirmed the denial of Daniel Peterka’s habeas petition. Peterka v. McNeil, ___ F.3d ___, 2008 WL 2600671 (11th Cir. July 2, 2008). The only claim before the panel was ineffective assistance of trial counsel at sentencing. Peterka had alleged that counsel’s performance was deficient in three respects: failing to investigate and present evidence concerning Peterka’s military record, evidence concerning Peterka’s good prison behavior, including his not taking advantage of an escape by his jail cell mates, and evidence about his family relationships and good character.

    The state post-conviction court found as a fact that trial counsel was aware of Peterka’s military service. It also found, and the Florida Supreme Court agreed, that counsel made a reasonable tactical decision not to present military evidence. Counsel’s decision was based on the trial location which was in an area with a strong military presence. Counsel was concerned that the jurors would react negatively to the fact that Peterka had been discharged from the National Guard because of his commission of a crime. Although counsel was unaware that Peterka had received commendations, the panel observed: “Counsel is not required to investigate every conceivable line of mitigating evidence, and nothing that Peterka had revealed about his military service suggested that other facts might outweigh the negative aspects surrounding his discharge.” On this record, counsel’s decision to limit the investigation into Peterka’s military record was reasonable.

    As to evidence of good behavior while in custody, the state post-conviction court ruled that counsel did not perform deficiently. The Florida Supreme Court, however, did not address that prong of the Strickland test and instead denied relief on the ground that Peterka had failed to establish prejudice. The panel here declined to decide whether § 2254(d)’s provisions applied to the state post-conviction court’s legal finding regarding the deficiency prong because even under de novo review Peterka could not prevail. Trial counsel testified that they would have looked into Peterka’s record as an inmate. (They largely had to speculate about their trial acts and omissions because the trial file had been destroyed prior to the evidentiary hearing on the ineffective assistance claim.) The evidence that Peterka produced post-conviction was “minimal at best,” i.e., testimony that Peterka was a “little better” than the normal person incarcerated for a violent crime. The panel found: “The mere fact that Peterka was ‘trying to act properly’ does not present compelling mitigating evidence that every reasonable attorney would present to the jury.” As for Peterka’s abstaining from joining his cell mates’ jail escape, which occurred after the jury’s death recommendation and prior to sentencing, Peterka’s counsel were unaware of the relevant circumstances. Even assuming a duty to further explore mitigation existed at this interim stage of the proceedings, it was reasonable of counsel to assume that Peterka would notify them if something like an escape opportunity had occurred. The panel faulted Peterka for his silence on the matter since, by this time, he should have been aware that this type of evidence was what counsel had been seeking to develop. (According to the trial investigator, Peterka had been provided a questionnaire prior to the penalty phase that had a space for prison conduct.) The panel ultimately found that counsel’s strategic decision not to present adjustment evidence was reasonable. Alternatively, it found that the Florida Supreme Court’s finding of no prejudice was neither contrary to nor involving an unreasonable applicable of clearly established federal law.

    Finally, the panel agreed with the state courts’ conclusion that counsel did not perform deficiently in failing to present additional evidence about Peterka’s loving family relationships and good character. At trial, Peterka’s mother testified that her son was loved and a loving member of the family. She also described him as kind and as a good person. Counsel introduced a photo album to corroborate the mother’s assertions. Counsel also called two other witnesses who similarly testified about Peterka’s loving relationship with his family, as well as his caring nature and good deeds. While other witnesses could have been called, the panel noted that Peterka’s father was too ill to come to trial, his siblings were too young to testify, and others potential witnesses lived far from where the trial was held. Counsel’s decision not to seek out additional good character witnesses was not, according to the panel, unreasonable.

    http://www.capdefnet.org/hat/wag.asp

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    Certiorari was denied by the US Supreme Court on January 26, 2009.

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    On April 26, 2010, Peterka filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus to the Florida Supreme Court. This petition was denied on November 15, 2010. A motion for rehearing was filed on November 22, 2010. This motion was denied on February 23, 2011.

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    In today's United States Supreme Court orders, Peterka's petition for a writ of certiorari and motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis was DENIED.

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    I went to school with Dan (6th grade on). I spoke to him on numerous occasions during that time but would not have classified us as friends. It is very surreal to see him on death row, knowing what he has done.

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    In today's United States Supreme Court orders, Peterka's petition for writ of certiorari was DENIED.

    Lower Ct: United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
    Case Nos.: (12-13161)
    Decision Date: August 28, 2012
    An uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    "Y'all be makin shit up" ~ Markeith Loyd

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    Matt Gaetz: Legislation could shorten Frank Walls’ stay on death row

    State Rep. Matt Gaetz is eager to give serial killer Frank Walls something to contemplate as he sits in his cell on death row at the Union Correctional Institute.

    Gaetz believes legislation he has introduced, if passed, could significantly lessen the time Walls will have left before his date with the executioner.

    “If the Timely Justice Act becomes law, Mr. Walls is going to have to start thinking about what his last meal is going to be,” Gaetz said.

    The Fort Walton Beach Republican last week sought to add language to the Timely Justice bill that would require the governor to sign execution warrants within 30 days of the conclusion of a death row inmate’s appeals.

    Read the bill for yourself. >> http://www.nwfdailynews.com/local/de...-bill-1.130038

    He said Scott “has engaged in the language of the bill and is involved in drafting the legislation.”

    Walls, described in long-ago news articles as an itinerant dishwasher, petty thief and horror movie buff, was convicted July 18, 1988, for the murders of Edward Alger Jr. and Ann Peterson during a burglary at their house trailer in Ocean City on July 22, 1987.

    The heinous nature of the crimes — he shot both victims and slashed Alger’s throat — convinced a jury that Walls deserved to be executed. He was put on Florida’s death row Aug. 24, 1988, and has remained there for almost 25 years.

    Walls was suspected to have been involved in as many as four other local killings.

    Records indicate Walls’ most recent appeal was denied last April, and a “transitional cases” document provided by Gaetz’s office states his is one of almost 100 death row cases in Florida that “appear to have exhausted all filing options.”

    “Frank Walls has no pending litigation before any court. He is warrant ripe,” Gaetz said. “If this legislation passes, my belief is the governor will very promptly be signing his death warrant.”

    Also appearing on the transitional list Gaetz provided is Daniel Peterka, who was sentenced to death in 1990 for the 1989 killing of his roommate, John Russell.

    Read the list for yourself. >> http://www.nwfdailynews.com/local/de...dates-1.130037

    They shared a home in Wright, and Peterka apparently killed Russell to steal his identity.

    Nowhere on the transitional list is the name of Edward Zakrzewski.

    In 1994, Zakrzewski brutally beat his wife to death inside the couple’s home in Mary Esther, then chopped up his children with a machete. He was received on death row on April 19, 1996.

    Also not appearing on the list are Jeffrey Hutchinson or Lamar Brooks.

    Hutchinson, who killed his girlfriend and her three young children with a shotgun, has been on death row since 2001.

    Brooks has been on death row since 1998 following his conviction for fatally stabbing an Eglin Air Force Base airman and her 3-month-old child.

    http://www.nwfdailynews.com/local/ma...h-row-1.130024

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    In today's orders, the US Supreme Court DENIED Peterka's certiorari petition.

    Docketed: April 15, 2015
    Lower Ct: Supreme Court of Florida
    Case Nos.: (SC14-1516)
    Decision Date: January 23, 2015

    http://www.supremecourt.gov/search.a...es/14-9342.htm

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    In today's orders, the US Supreme Court DENIED Peterka's certiorari petition.

    Docketed: October 8, 2015
    Lower Ct: United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
    Case Nos.: (14-13081-P)
    Decision Date: March 9, 2015
    Rehearing Denied: July 6, 2015

    http://www.supremecourt.gov/search.a...es/15-6443.htm

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