Henry Sireci * was convicted in the stabbing death of Howard Poteet in 1976. His attorneys had been seeking DNA testing in this case, and Attorney General Ashley Moody is looking to stop such testing.
Recently, a Florida circuit court judge ruled that the Attorney General does not hold legal standing to stop the DNA testing, which was previously agreed to by the local prosecutor and the defendant’s lawyers.
However, the attorney general´s office appealed the decision by Judge Wayne C. Wooten. This would stop Sireci from having the testing done, which could question the amount of power that the Attorney General has in local court cases.
The appeal presented by Ashley Moody to the Florida Supreme Court not only affects Sireci´s case, but it could set a precedent and affect Tommy Zeigler´s case as well.
Tommy Zeigler * has spent more than 40 years on death row after being convicted in 1976 for the murder of his wife, in-laws, and another man at his family´s furniture store in Winter Garden. He was shot in the stomach and has maintained that he was the victim of a robbery.
Although both cases are unrelated, both men were convicted in 1976 by the same prosecutor and before the same judge. Zeigler, just as Sireci, has been seeking DNA testing that was not available at the time of his conviction. The difference with Zeigler´s case is that their attorneys have asked for the DNA testing and been denied at least six times, but the judge in his case has not ruled on whether the Attorney General can stop the DNA tests.
In Sireci´s case, Assitant Attorney General Scott Browne outlined the reasons for intervening. It was said that the agreement reached previously by Sireci´s lawyers and the local prosecutor did not meet the criteria for Florida´s DNA testing rules.
One of Sireci´s attorneys, Nina Morrison, acknowledged that Florida law states that the Attorney General shall act as co-counsel of record. However, this doesn´t define that role or mention that it must be given notice in local cases. She mentioned that Florida´s DNA testing law applies when a defendant wants a judge to approve testing over a State Attorney´s objection.
The decision to appeal to the Florida Supreme Court means that Sireci and Zeigler must continue waiting.
An allegation of a criminal offense should never be treated lightly. In fact, it should be handled by an attorney who has the experience and knowledge to protect your rights and your freedom no matter what type of charge you are facing.
Criminal defense lawyer Russell A. Spatz of the Spatz Law Firm, PL, in Miami, Florida, has decades of experience handling serious criminal cases. Meet with lawyer Russell Spatz and discuss your criminal matter. Please call the Spatz Law Firm, PL, at (305) 442-0200.
*Disclaimer: Russell Spatz has never worked on these cases.
Resources: Tampa Bay Times (2021), “Debate over DNA testing for death row inmate headed to Florida Supreme Court” https://www.tampabay.com/news/florida/2021/10/20/debate-over-dna-testing-for-death-row-inmate-headed-to-florida-supreme-court/
Orlando Sentinel (2021), “Tommy Zeigler attorneys: AG Moody has no basis to block new DNA tests in 1975 murders”. https://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/crime/os-ne-tommy-zeigler-dna-testing-response-20210721-wluykdbct5c6bagk5agb2fkuni-story.html