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    1. #1
      Heidi's Avatar
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      Oct 2010

      Judge Sentences 68-Year-Old David Myers to Life in 2009 FL Slayings

      Death penalty may await Venice senior citizen

      SARASOTA COUNTY - David Myers is 68. But this week, prosecutors intend to try the Venice man on capital murder charges and make him among the oldest people ever sentenced to Florida's death row.

      Death penalty opponents question the wisdom of seeking the death penalty for someone who will probably die naturally before the state could execute him.

      Typical death penalty cases cost millions of dollars and drive up the cost of everything from court hearings to prison housing. The mandatory appeals process would almost surely last beyond Myers' 80th birthday.

      "I think there's no reasonable possibility this defendant would ever be executed," said Sarasota lawyer Adam Tebrugge, who teaches other Florida lawyers about defending death penalty cases. "I think it's a terrible waste of resources."

      Prosecutors say Myers' age should not play into their decision to seek a death sentence. Rather, they say the brutality of the crime is paramount.

      Authorities say a long-standing feud between Myers and his ex-wife over their rural Venice home boiled over in 2009. Myers broke in, shot Maureen Modlin in the face, turned the gun on her boyfriend and hid their bodies so he could move into the house, prosecutors will argue.

      Assistant State Attorney Karen Fraivillig said older defendants do not deserve a pass simply because of age. She declined to discuss other details of the Myers case.

      "There are many facts that will come out during the trial that led us to make that decision," Fraivillig said.

      Myers' attorneys plan to argue at his trial that he is not guilty because he was insane at the time of the crime. An insanity defense is difficult to prove and could simply be a strategy to convince the jury to recommend a life sentence instead of the death penalty. The trial judge ultimately decides the sentence.

      But if prosecutors get their way during a three-week trial starting today, Myers would enter a Florida death row where the average inmate arrived at age 30 and has been there for more than a decade.

      Available records show only one person has arrived on death row after turning 68. That inmate is a Bartow man sentenced in 1997 for killing four people, including a prosecutor, after a soured business deal.

      The oldest man ever executed in Florida was 72; that happened in 1951. The oldest man currently on Florida's death row, at 79, has been there for 20 years.

      Death penalty trials for people over 65 are rare in the United States. Only one of the 112 people committed to death row nationwide in 2009 was over 65, according to the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center in Washington D.C.

      "People that age don't commit many murders, and certainly don't commit the most violent murders," said Richard Deiter, the center's executive director. "And you're drawing from a diminishing population."

      Seeking the death penalty means a longer case with more extensive legal work for prosecutors, public defenders and judges. A death sentence is automatically appealed to the Florida Supreme Court, a process that takes years.

      Florida has never had an official study of the cost of the death penalty, but the most widely quoted cost analysis is a 2000 report in The Palm Beach Post that concluded the state spends $24 million to execute each person because of appeals that stretch an average of 12 years.

      In the alternative, it costs the state $72 per day to house an inmate on a life sentence, or about $1.3 million over 50 years, the newspaper found.

      Life on death row means about 23 hours a day alone in a 6-foot-by-9-foot cell, no air conditioning and a 13-inch black and white television. Florida's two death row wings are at Florida State Prison and Union Correctional Institute, both near Starke.

      Robert Blecker, a New York Law School professor and death penalty supporter, says cost, age and the likelihood of execution do not matter when it comes to seeking justice for the community.

      In some ways, an older defendant's crimes are all the worse because they had the maturity and time to reflect on life experiences, Blecker said.

      "Justice isn't cheap, and the question shouldn't be cost," Blecker said. "It should be a function of who he is and what he did."

      Police say Myers shot Modlin, 58, in the face at her home on June 27, 2009, and then shot her three more times before shooting Michael Lee Bistranin, 60. Myers is charged with first-degree murder, which has only two possible sentences: death or life in prison without parole.

      At the heart of the case will be the events leading up to the murders. Modlin installed security cameras outside her rural Venice property on Kennedy Boulevard, alerted her neighbors about Myers, pleaded with a judge for a restraining order and frequently called the Sheriff's Office for help.

      Modlin reported that Myers stole her mail and vandalized her property. Myers was convicted in 2006 of fraud for forging deed documents to get the property back and then taking out a mortgage.

      Investigators said Myers moved the bodies to a wooded area behind the house and hid them, then parked the victims' two vehicles deep into the property so they could not easily be spotted.

      Myers went home, but eventually returned and moved into Modlin's property.

      Myers' defense attorneys did not return calls for comment. Jury selection starts today and will likely take a week. If he is found guilty, jurors will vote on whether to recommend the death penalty.


    2. #2

    3. #3
      Heidi's Avatar
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      Oct 2010
      Update: Myers death penalty trial

      by Todd Ruger

      The jury has been selected in the David Myers death penalty trial in Sarasota County, and opening statements have been scheduled for Monday morning at 9 a.m.

      A vigorous debate on the death penalty has emerged on the heraldtribune.com forums, go join in.

      As I mentioned in my story on the trial published in the print edition earlier this week, attorneys the 68-year-old Myers have indicated they will argue he was insane at the time of the crime. Backing this up is the strangest fact of the case to me: that Myers allegedly killed his ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend at a rural Venice house and then got his things from his apartment and moved into the house.

      But, it’s a tough argument for defense attorneys to be successful. A New College psychology professor, Brooke Butler, sat at the defense table during jury selection. She focuses her work on defense cases and has been involved in high-profile trials; some of her specialties include the insanity defense, along with jury selection and convincing juries to recommend life in prison instead of death.

      Myers sat at the defense table with a salt-and-pepper beard and a device stuck in his ears that allows the hard of hearing to follow the court action. Prosecutors want make him among the oldest people ever sentenced to Florida’s death row.


    4. #4
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      Oct 2010
      Insanity defense opens in Venice 2008 murder trial

      Prosecutors call David Myers' actions at a rural Venice property a cover-up of a 2008 double murder. Defense attorneys say the actions are so bizarre that it shows Myers was insane at the time.

      With the body of his ex-girlfriend and her male companion and their vehicles still on the property, Myers hung around.

      He posted an eviction notice on the front door with his name on it, and gave his name and phone number to a friend of the victims.

      Myers invited a friend over to the property to pick up some equipment. Then, Myers started moving his own possessions into the house where he is accused of killing Maureen Modlin and Michael Bistrani on July 27 and 28, 2008.

      “He moves into the place where the murders allegedly took place, like no one would ever notice,” defense attorney Carolyn Schlemmer told a jury Monday during opening statements in Myers' first-degree murder trial.

      While prosecutors began presenting the overwhelming evidence this week that Myers shot Modlin and Bistrani to death, defense attorneys tried to turn the jury's attention to evidence he was delusional at the time.

      For instance, when uniformed sheriff's deputies finally arrived at the property and insisted that Myers leave, he ignored them. “The opportunity was given for Mr. Myers to leave if he knew it was wrong to commit two murders,” Schlemmer said. “He stayed on the property with the law enforcement officers there.”

      But the burden is on the defense to prove that Myers, now 68, should be found not guilty by reason of insanity during a trial where prosecutors are pushing for the death penalty.

      During openings, Prosecutor Ed Brodsky outlined the evidence he will present this week and repeatedly pointed an accusatory finger at Myers, saying he was responsible for the murders.

      Myers, who would be among the oldest people ever sent to death row, listened through a courtroom hearing device hanging from his ears.

      "This is a case about a man who decided that a piece of property is worth more than two lives," Brodsky told the jury before describing the ongoing conflict leading up to the murders. "The defendant is not legally insane."

      Myers and Modlin were in a relationship and moved into the property on Kennedy Drive that needed substantial renovation, Brodsky said. Myers had insufficient credit to get an equity line, so he deeded the property to Modlin and Modlin's mother with the understanding that they would return the property to him when the $100,000 credit line was repaid.

      The couple broke up, the debt was never paid, and the property remained in Modlin's name, Brodsky said. Myers filed a civil suit to regain the property, and was prosecuted for falsely notarized a deed purporting to give the property back. Modlin accused Myers of domestic abuse and sought a restraining order.

      Prosecutors say that on the afternoon of June 27, 2008, Myers went into the house and shot Modlin twice with a .25-caliber handgun while she was in her master bathroom: once at close range in the back and once on her side of her left breast, Brodsky said.

      Bistrani was working at Home Depot in Venice until 10 p.m. that night, and Myers shot and killed him with a .22-caliber rifle as he entered the home through the kitchen. Bistrani was shot in the head, face, shoulder and throat with a downward trajectory that meant Myers was above him, prosecutors say.

      When deputies responded, they asked. Where's Maureen?

      "He said to them, 'I don't know what's going on,'" Brodsky said. "Later you will hear he asked another deputy, 'Did I walk into something?' He will then later subsequently claim he acted in self-defense."

      Prosecutors also pointed out the evidence of concealing the crime. The bodies and vehicles were taken behind the home and hidden. And the house was apparently cleaned. A medical examiner will say there should have been a lot of blood from the wounds, but detectives found only three droplets of blood belonging to Modlin in the living room.

      A towel in the master bathroom held Modlin's blood. And there were blood smears on Myer's jeans that contained mixtures of blood belonging to Modlin and Bistrani.

      Prosecutors also said that a friend of Myers who stored guns for him will say that Myers expressed anger over losing the property and said, "I'm going to kill her someday," and another friend who said Myers asked if he would kill Modlin.

      Testimony started with a neighbor who called 911 and the deputy who first responded to the property. The trial continues throughout the week.


    5. #5
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      Oct 2010
      Jury deliberating in Venice double murder trial

      A jury today is deliberating first-degree murder charges against 68-year-old David Myers, accused of fatally shooting his ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend in 2009.

      The jury must decide whether Myers is guilty of planning two murders in a long-running dispute over a rural Venice property, or if he is not guilty because he was so delusional at the time of the crime and did not know right from wrong.

      Prosecutors and Myers’ public defenders pointed to the same evidence to back up their versions of events during closing arguments Monday.

      For instance, Myers brought a 3-day eviction notice to the house of Maureen Modlin and Michael Bistranin before the shootings, and then began moving his personal property into the home with the bodies still on the 5-acre property.

      Prosecutors say that shows Myers went to the home intending to kill the couple and retake the property. Assistant State Attorney Ed Brodsky told the jury that the eviction notice shows Myers knew right from wrong because the eviction would explain to authorities why Modlin and Bistranin were no longer at the home.

      “Does it make any sense that David Myers would go to the property, kill them, and then flee the jurisdiction? Does that make any sense?” Brodsky said. “This was a man who valued property over the lives of two human beings. Of course he had to kill them and return to the scene, because this is where he wants to be.”

      Yet Myers’ attorneys told the jury an the eviction notice shows a man so delusional that he put his name on a paper trying to evict people from a property he did not own, then tried to move into a home he did not own.

      “It’s not like this is some sort of good plan,” Assistant Public Defender Matthew Gish said. “It’s not like once this eviction were done the property would magically become his.”

      “And it would guarantee he would be caught,” Gish added. “It really makes no sense. ... It’s not going to fool anybody.”

      If the jury convicts Myers on two first-degree murder charges, the jury would then hear more evidence and could recommend the death penalty or life in prison. Myers could be one of the oldest people ever sentenced to Florida’s death row.

      The jury is expected to reach a verdict today or tomorrow.


    6. #6
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      Oct 2010

    7. #7
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      Oct 2010
      Jury recommends death in Venice double murder

      SARASOTA COUNTY - A jury recommended Thursday that David Myers be put to death for the 2009 murders of his ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend in a rural Venice house.

      A majority of the jurors voted that Myers deserved the death penalty, setting the stage for the 68-year-old to become one of the oldest people ever sent to receive the state's ultimate sentence.

      Although it never came up during the attorneys' arguments in the case, a mandatory and lengthy appeals process means Myers has a good chance of dying naturally before the state could execute him.

      Still, prosecutors highlighted the cold, calculated details of the murders: the way Myers broke into the home on Kennedy Avenue in June 2009 and fatally shot Maureen Modlin, and remained there and waited to kill Michael Bistranin, who came home from work hours later.

      "An older person should know better," Assistant State Attorney Karen Fraivillig told the jury during closing arguments. "The impulsiveness and the hastiness of youth should be gone, and a person should be able to temper his behavior."

      Myers murdered for financial gain, prosecutors said. He felt Modlin had taken his property, since he had signed it over to her when they lived together so he could get a $100,000 credit line for renovations. The couple broke up and the debt was never paid, and the dispute led to court battles and Modlin seeking a protective order.

      The shootings were separated by hours, enough time to calmly reflect instead of rearming himself and killing Bistranin, Fraivillig said.

      "Let us not forget why we are here today. We are here today because David Myers, the man sitting at that table, killed two people," Fraivillig told jurors.

      The jury deliberated for about two hours and took two votes, one for each first-degree murder charge, and could either recommend for the death penalty or life in prison. The jury voted 7-5 for the death sentence for Modlin's murder, and 9-3 for death in Bistranin's murder.

      Myers' sentence is ultimately up to Circuit Judge Charles Roberts, who must give "great weight" to the jury's recommendations during a sentencing hearing later this year.

      Myers' defense attorneys brought in his friends, his daughters and a psychologist to paint a picture of a man who was a good employee and father who became delusional with age, family traumas and financial problems.

      Myers is a veteran of the Army and Army Reserves, whose father and brother committed suicide, while another brother was murdered.

      As a father and grandfather, Myers kept in touch with grandchildren and daughters even after his incarceration.

      Assistant Public Defender Carolyn Schlemmer ultimately asked the jury to compare the details of this case to others where the defendant was sentenced to death.

      "This is not such a case," Schlemmer said. "State versus David Myers does not stand out."


    8. #8
      Senior Member
      JLR's Avatar
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      Mar 2011
      For the first time in Sarasota judicial history, a judge has gone against a jury's recommendation for a death sentence in a murder case and instead sentenced the killer to life in prison.

      A jury recommended that David Myers be sentenced to death for the murder of two people. But a Sarasota judge overruled their decision, instead sentencing Myers, 68, to life in prison.
      Jurors who heard about how David Myers fatally shot his ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend, then moved into their Venice property with the bodies still there, recommended the 68-year-old be executed for the June 2009 murders.

      Judges have the final say on sentencing, but typically follow the jury's lead.

      And yet, Circuit Judge Charles Roberts late last week sentenced Myers to life in prison instead.

      Roberts, a former homicide prosecutor, compared the facts of the case and information about Myers to other death penalty cases and decided a life sentence was more appropriate.

      Among the reasons: Myers' military service, lack of criminal history, severe mental illness and age. Myers would have been among the oldest people ever sent to Florida's Death Row, and the mandatory appeals process would almost surely last beyond Myers' 80th birthday.

      "It was the right thing to do," Assistant Public Defender Carolyn Schlemmer said.

      Death penalty experts say the decision will save taxpayers "a ton of money" because the case will not be automatically appealed to the Florida Supreme Court, which also compares each death penalty case to others.

      Typical death penalty cases cost millions of dollars and drive up the cost of everything from court hearings to prison housing.

      "It's very likely that in light of the mental mitigation that the Florida Supreme Court would have found a death sentence to be disproportionate in this case," said Adam Tebrugge, Florida death penalty expert and Bradenton criminal defense attorney.

      Judges overrule the jury's recommendation for death only two or three times a year in Florida. Judges must give "great weight" to jury recommendations, but are ultimately responsible for the sentence.

      Roberts' ruling is the 90th and 91st time it has happened since 1972, since the jury recommended the death penalty for each victim in Myers' case, according to death penalty expert Michael Radelet, who tracks judicial overrides of jury verdicts.

      Myers' attorneys argued he was insane at the time of the crime, and also questioned his ability to understand the court proceedings several times during the case, including at a pre-sentencing hearing last week.

      At the end of the hearing, Roberts simply announced his decision. In contrast, a pronouncement of a death sentence requires a separate hearing and a lengthy written order laying out the reasons for the ultimate penalty.

      Prosecutors say they respect the decision, and that the family of one of the victims was bothered by the sentence but felt justice was served.

      "Sentencing someone to death is a formidable undertaking," Assistant State Attorney Karen Fraivillig said. "I know Judge Roberts is someone who is very wise and certainly undertook this and came up with the very best determination of what he thought was the appropriate sentence."

      Yet Tebrugge said Roberts likely made the call because prosecutors pushed for the death penalty in a case where it was not warranted.

      "The death penalty was supposed to be reserved for the worst of the worst," said Tebrugge. "This is a great example of why the death penalty is not working in the state of Florida, when the prosecutors look for the death penalty in a case like this."

      Prosecutors highlighted the cold, calculated details of the murders: the way Myers broke into the home on Kennedy Avenue in June 2009 and fatally shot Maureen Modlin, then stayed to kill Michael Bistranin, who came home from work hours later.

      Myers' defense attorneys argued he was insane at the time. With the body of his ex-girlfriend and her male companion and their vehicles still on the property, Myers hung around, posted an eviction notice on the front door and started moving his possessions into the house.

      The jury agreed with prosecutors, voting 7-5 for the death penalty in Modlin's case, and 9-3 for the death penalty in Bistranin's case.

      Radelet said most judges have not suffered political backlash when they override a jury.

      Since new execution rules in 1972, it has been far more common for judges to overrule life recommendations and apply the death sentence — 166 times, according to Radelet.

      But no judge has done that since 1999, and many times the Florida Supreme Court reviews those and reduces the sentence to life.


    9. #9
      Senior Member
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      Jun 2011
      Well.....Give him the DP, and just get it done in a year or 2, that will settle the "he will probably die before his execution date" argument.....

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