STARKE - Less than 30 minutes before his scheduled execution, Amos Lee King got at least a temporary reprieve from Gov. Jeb Bush.
Bush granted a 30-day stay so DNA tests can be run on evidence remaining from the March 1977 rape and stabbing death of 68-year-old Tarpon Springs resident Natalie Brady.
Police discovered Brady dead inside her burning home as they were racing to a report of a stabbing and escape from the minimum-security Tarpon Springs Community Correctional Facility.
King, who continues to maintain his innocence, was convicted and twice sentenced to death on unanimous jury recommendations based on what one defense lawyer said Monday was overwhelming circumstantial evidence.
Defense attorney Baya Harrison III won an emergency stay of King's first death warrant in 1981 and convinced a federal appeals court that King's attorney at his 1977 murder trial was ineffective during the sentencing phase.
But Harrison was unable to convince a second judge and jury that his client did not deserve to die for Brady's slaying, which included mutilation of her genitals.
``There was never any evidence that suggested someone else could have done that,'' Harrison said as King awaited execution. ``You have to rely on your client to provide you an alibi and things of this nature, and he just couldn't do it.''
It also did not help that King, then 23, stabbed a guard 26 times after the guard discovered him attempting to sneak back into the corrections center wearing blood- soaked pants after Brady's slaying, Harrison said.
Reached at her St. Petersburg home Monday, Natalie Brady's sister, Eva Lysek, declined to discuss the case.
But after 25 years, she said it is time the family moved on.
``Don't you think it's time?'' Lysek asked.
Bush's decision to stay his order of execution came after the state Supreme Court rejected King's latest attempt to avoid execution.
In a series of last-minute motions first filed Nov. 29 in Pinellas Circuit Court, King asked that physical evidence preserved from Brady's body be subjected to DNA testing that has become available only in recent years. Specifically, the motions sought testing of the victim's pubic hairs and genetic material found under her fingernails.
Pasco-Pinellas Circuit Judge Susan Schaeffer rejected the motions Sunday, calling it ``an abuse of discretion to wait this long to file it.''
In their motions, King's attorneys also attacked the credibility of Joan Wood, the former Pasco-Pinellas medical examiner. Without citing evidence, the defense team asserted Wood performed an unscientific, incomplete autopsy. It also said that at some point after King's trials, she destroyed semen mixed with blood that might exonerate King if subjected to modern DNA testing.
The motion stated that Wood's work on the Brady slaying was the first in a line of unacceptable medical examinations that most recently resulted in murder charges being dropped against two fathers accused of shaking babies to death. It cited Wood's change of opinion in a criminal case against the Church of Scientology that led to the charges being dropped and Wood's resignation in 2000.
Tribune reporter David Sommer contributed to this report.
Article published Dec 1, 2002 Three motions filed to appeal King execution
ST. PETERSBURG - Three motions have been filed by attorneys for Amos King seeking to delay or throw out the death sentence he received for killing an elderly Central Florida woman.
King, 48, has been on Death Row for 25 years and is scheduled to die 6 p.m. Monday at the Florida State Prison near Starke.
One motion filed late Friday requests DNA tests that could prove King's innocence, defense attorney Peter Cannon said Saturday. That motion asks for testing of hair samples and fingernail scrapings from the victim which could pin the murder on someone other than King.
The other motions ask for a stay of execution and to vacate King's death sentence, Cannon said. The motions were filed late Friday in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court. As part of the stay of execution motion, lawyers want a judge to release autopsy records used in the shaken baby case of John Peel Jr.
Peel, originally charged with first-degree murder of his infant son, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 1998 after pleading guilty to manslaughter. A judge freed the St. Petersburg man from prison last week after questions arose about the medical examiner's report.
The autopsy in Peel's case was done by former Pasco-Pinellas Medical Examiner Joan Wood, who provided the autopsy on the Tarpon Springs woman who King was convicted of murdering.
Lawyers said the documents in Peel's case would show a pattern of flawed conclusions by Wood that led to King's conviction. Wood could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Peel case is the latest controversy for Wood since her reversal on the cause of death of a Church of Scientology member led prosecutors to drop charges against the church. Wood was forced to retire in 2000.
A hearing on the motions was set for 10 a.m. today before Circuit Judge Susan Schaeffer in St. Petersburg.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court, on a 5-4 vote, granted Florida's request to erase the stay granted a day before to King by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.
King's reprieve involved his claim that a lawyer must be appointed to represent him in a clemency petition to the state.
Separately, King has asked the Supreme Court if Florida's death sentencing law is invalid because it is similar to an Arizona law the court found unconstitutional earlier this year. The law was struck down because it allowed a judge, not a jury, to decide facts used to warrant a death sentence.
The stay granted Tuesday by the Atlanta court was the third King has received this year - and Wednesday's order by the high court was the third time a reprieve has been overturned.
The state also plans to execute a second man this week. Linroy Bottoson is scheduled to be executed Friday for the murder of an elderly woman in Central Florida 23 years ago.
The state planned to execute King and Bottoson 11 months ago, but the men had been issued reprieves as both the U.S. and Florida high courts considered challenges to Arizona's capital punishment law and its relation to Florida law. Florida juries recommend whether convicted killers are sentenced to life in prison or death, but judges have the final say.
King was condemned for murdering Natalie Brady, 68, in her Tarpon Springs home in 1977 and setting the place ablaze after slipping away from a work-release prison. He was caught, in bloody clothing, trying to slip back in.
Bottoson, 63, was convicted of killing Catherine Alexander, the Eatonville postmistress, in 1979. He robbed the 74-year-old woman, held her captive for 83 hours, stabbed her 16 times and finally killed her by running over her several times with a car.
King's jury voted unanimously to recommend that he be executed; Bottoson's jury voted 10-2 in favor of death.