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A speedy retrial may help man's defense

James Floyd sat on death row for more than 20 years for the 1984 stabbing death of Annie Bar Anderson.

By CHRIS TISCH, Times Staff Writer
Published June 7, 2005

LARGO - James Floyd sat on death row for more than 20 years before the Florida Supreme Court granted him a new trial.

Now, prosecutors may have just 90 days to finish lab tests and find long-lost witnesses to try Floyd a second time.

Murder cases typically take a year or more to reach trial after a defendant waives the constitutional right to a speedy trial.

That gives defense attorneys time to thoroughly review the evidence, seek the opinions of outside experts and potentially punch holes in the state's case.

But Floyd, 45, is in a unique position. Because his case is so old, demanding his right to a speedy trial could work in his favor.

"That's something I'm going to talk to him about," defense attorney Martin McClain said Monday.

The urgency of the 90 days doesn't appear lost on Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Tim Peters, who urged prosecutors in a hearing Monday to be ready for trial by August. He scheduled another hearing for Friday morning to talk again about the case.

Prosecutor Mark McGarry said it will be a challenge to pull the case together, but he said: "I plan to be ready."

St. Petersburg police arrested Floyd on murder charges in the Jan. 16, 1984, slaying of Annie Bar Anderson, 86, known in her St. Petersburg neighborhood as the "Butterfly Lady" because she raised the insects.

Anderson had been stabbed 11 times in the stomach and once in the heart.

Detectives developed Floyd, then 23, as a suspect when he tried to cash one of Anderson's stolen checks. Floyd gave conflicting statements at first and provided a false alibi. A sock spattered with blood - the same type as Anderson's - was found in Floyd's jacket pocket.

Floyd, who worked as a custodian for a local church, told police he had found Anderson's checks in a trash bin in an alley. He denied killing Anderson.

A jury took about an hour to convict Floyd, then took another hour to recommend a death sentence. A judge sent him to death row. In March, the state Supreme Court ordered a new trial because prosecutors withheld evidence from defense attorneys. This included a statement from a neighbor who saw two other men go into Anderson's house about the time of the murder.

The court's ruling also pointed out some inconsistencies in the crime scene evidence.

Prosecutors have since submitted evidence for DNA testing.

[Last modified June 7, 2005, 02:15:48]

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