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April 18, 2005 ]]>
Judge Denies DNA-Based Appeal by Death Row Inmate Tommy Zeigler
The Associated Press
Published: Apr 18, 2005
]]> ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) – A judge Tuesday ruled that DNA evidence is not enough to overturn the murder convictions of Tommy Zeigler for shooting his wife, her parents and his store’s handyman on Christmas Eve in 1975.
Circuit Court Judge Reginald Whitehead decided Tommy Zeigler “has not shown that the DNA testing results would exonerate him or mitigate his sentence,” according to the judgment published on Monday.
Whitehead’s decision came after Zeigler, 59, won a request in 2001 for a detailed investigation into blood samples taken from the crime scene at his family’s furniture store in nearby Winter Garden.
DNA testing was not around in 1976, when Zeigler was convicted in the slayings of his wife, Eunice, 29, her parents visiting from Georgia, Perry and Virginia Edwards, 74 and 54, and Charles Mays, 35, Zeigler’s handyman.
Prosecutors said Zeigler committed the murders, then shot himself through the side in a scheme to collect $500,000 in life insurance money on his wife.
Whitehead dismissed the defense’s claims that the DNA evidence exonerates Zeigler, who claims he killed Mays in self-defense and that his wife and her parents were killed in a robbery attempt.
“The fact that only Mays’ blood was found on the left arm of the Defendant’s T-shirt does not exonerate Defendant or even tend to exonerate Defendant,” Whitehead wrote in his judgment.
Defense attorney John Houston Pope had said blood on Mays’ pants came from Edwards, indicating that it was Mays who killed Edwards in a fight.
Whitehead said the findings show that Mays was standing next to Perry after Perry was killed and that Mays was a victim, not the perpetrator.
Activists against the death penalty said they had hoped for a new trial.
“We had hoped that the new technology would be the key to a new trial and, for the first time, a full and fair examination of all of the evidence,” said Abe Bonowitz, director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.
Pope has said his client has always maintained that he was jumped when he entered the furniture store. Zeigler allegedly fought with and then shot his assailant, who may have been Mays, Pope said.
Telephone calls to the State Attorney’s Office for comment after hours were not returned.
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