And They Say the Death Penalty Is Applied Fairly…?
Gregory Mills is scheduled to be executed on May 2, 2001. Mills was convicted in the murder of James Wright. Mills’
codefendant received complete immunity for his involvement in the killing in exchange for testifying that Mills was the
shooter. The codefendant literally walked out a free man. Of course he was later arrested for murder and he is currently
in prison. As you will see in the below information, Mills’ jury recommended life imprisonment, however Florida law allows
a judge to disagree with the jury verdict. Who was the shooter? We don’t know. But both men were there. The first one
who agreed to testify against the other in court was freed. The other was sent to death row.
- Read Florida Supreme Court Justice Anstead’s Comments
- See all legal files in the Mills case at http://www.oranous.com/florida/GregoryMills/
- Read recent news articles in the case
- Take Action!
A life hangs in the balance while this Court considers whether it should openly acknowledge its past mistake. In my view
the choice is obvious while we still have time. A jury has lawfully determined that Mr. Mills’ life should be spared. We are
now called upon to recognize that a trial court wrongfully ignored the jury’s decision and this Court erroneously approved
of that action. No one disputes that a mistake was made.
Under our holding in Keen v. State, 775 So. 2d 263 (Fla. 2000), and countless other decisions properly applying the Tedder
rule, it is apparent that there was a reasonable basis for the jury’s decision to spare Mills’ life and we should not hesitate to
say so now. For example, in both Keen and Mills, the jury was entitled to rely on the more lenient treatment of a codefendant
as a valid reason to recommend life. However, under our ruling today, Mills will die while Keen will live.
In the past this Court has been quick to accept responsibility for its mistakes, especially if blind adherence to a flawed
decision will result in a manifest injustice and the taking of a human life.
It is also important to note that the injustice of the treatment of Mills has not gone unnoticed by members of this Court.
Over the years, the major concern expressed by courts, including the United States Supreme Court, as to the constitutionality
of the application of the death penalty, has been the fear that the penalty may be applied arbitrarily. The arbitrary execution of
Mills, whose case cannot be distinguished in any meaningful way from that of Cochran, Keen and countless other cases where
we have mandated adherence to Tedder, is that fear come true.
Apr 17, 2001 – 07:07 PM
Murder Witness Who Changed Story Refuses to Testify
SANFORD, Fla. (AP) – A key witness in a 1979 murder case refused on Tuesday to testify about his changed version of a
slaying that could prevent a death row inmate’s execution.
Vincent Ashley was ordered by Circuit Judge O.H. Eaton Jr. to appear in court Tuesday to explain why he changed his
version of events. Ashley is currently in state prison, serving a life sentence in an unrelated armed robbery. He was given
immunity in James Wright’s slaying for his testimony against Gregory Mills.
“I’m not going to testify to nothing, period,” Ashley said.
Eaton reminded Ashley that his testimony could result in a reduced life sentence for Mills instead of death.
“I’m protecting my rights, protecting my soul,” Ashley responded. Mills, 43, is scheduled to die May 2 for the shotgun slaying
of Wright, a 73-year-old Sanford man who was killed in May 25, 1979 when he got up in the middle of the night to
investigate the sound of burglars in his front room.
Mills was convicted of felony murder and sentenced to death. At the trial, Ashley testified that after Mills crawled into the
house through a window, he did, too. Ashley now says he never entered the house and that he stayed outside the window,
said Todd Scher, Mills’ attorney, who is asking Eaton to throw out Mills’ conviction and sentence.
“Mr. Ashley cannot be believed,” Scher said Tuesday. Attorneys tried on Tuesday to get Ashley to testify in a closed-door
session with the court reporter, who later read a transcript of the session to the judge. Prosecutors agreed to drop all
charges against Ashley in the case if he told the truth.
Ashley insisted that he didn’t want to “complicate things” any more. “I might tell you anything now,” he said. “I might tell you I
pulled the trigger.”
After the hearing, Scher said he was surprised that Ashley refused to testify.
“It clearly indicates that he didn’t want to put himself in jeopardy for perjury,” he said.
Scher argued that Ashley’s comments indicated that he was the shooter, not Mills. Eaton replied that Ashley merely said he
might say he was the shooter.
Assistant Attorney General Ken Nunnelley argued that even if Ashley has changed his story, the changes are insignificant and
wouldn’t have caused the jury to acquit him.
The jury that convicted Mills recommended a life sentence, knowing that Ashley got immunity in exchange for his testimony.
But the trial judge sentenced Mills to death.
The state Supreme Court last week refused to stop Mills’ execution. In sharply worded dissent, three of the seven justices
said the execution would be not only an injustice but also an arbitrary application
of the death penalty.
Eaton said he would issue his ruling on whether the sentence should be reduced by noon Wednesday.
Apr 18, 2001 – 03:48 PM
Judge Denies Death Row Immates Request for a Stay of Execution
SAMFORD, Fla. (AP) – Death row inmate Gregory Mills should be executed next month even though the star witness at his
murder trial changed his story, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Circuit Judge O.H. Eaton Jr., denied a stay of execution for Mills, who is scheduled to die May 2. The changed story about
what happened offered by the witness, Vincent Ashley, would not have made a difference in Mills being
sentenced to death in 1979, Eaton ruled.
“There really is nothing new here,’ the judge said in an eight-page order.
Please send letters immediately. Please note that letters making reference to the specifics of Mills’ case are likely to be more
effective than letters of general opposition to the death penalty. Please also note that letters sent on paper through the regular
mail is known to carry greater weight then letters sent via e-mail. FADP suggest you do both. See above for case information.
Write to the Governor of Florida:
Governor Jeb Bush
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001
Telephone: (850) 488-4441 or
FAX (850) 487-0801
Alternate e-mail: Jebbush@jeb.org
If you are writing from outside of Florida, please send a copy of your letter to:
The Tallahassee Democrat
Letters to the Editor
P.O. Box 990
Tallahassee, FL 32302
Fax: (850) 599-2295
If you are writing from within Florida, please send a copy of your letter to your local news paper(s), along with a letter to the
editor marked “for publication.” (You might also try simply marking your letter to Jeb! “for publication,” and perhaps they’ll run
that! As always, FADP requests that if your letter is printed, please send us an original of the full page on which the letter appears,
to the address shown below.
DAY OF KILLING – ACTIONS
BE ACTIVE IN YOUR AREA.
Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty calls for high visibility actions in opposition to this killing. Simultaneous
demonstrations are again scheduled for the prison at Starke and five other Florida cities.
PLEASE PLAN TO ATTEND THE NEAREST VIGIL IN YOUR AREA. Click here for details.
Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
2603 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Hwy
Gainesville, FL 32609