Florida Supreme Court Overturns Death Sentences In Racial Murder
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ Death sentences for two members of a black militant group convicted of murdering a white youth in an alleged attempt to start a race war were overturned Thursday by the Florida Supreme Court.
The justices ordered a new sentencing hearing for Jacob John Dougan and directed that Elwood C. Barclay be sentenced to life in prison without eligibility for parole for 25 years.
They were among five members of a black karate club convicted for stabbing and shooting to death Steven Orlando, the son of an East Brunswick, N.J. policeman. The men found Orlando, 18, hitchhiking in Jacksonville Beach on June 16, 1974.
His body was found on a trash heap with a note signed by the Black Liberation Army threatening a racial revolution.
Orlando’s parents also received a note containing grisly details of the murder.
The group, which claimed no ties with a group called the Black Liberation Army in California and New York, sent tapes to Orlando’s mother and radio and television stations. The tapes threatened racial war against the ″white devils″ and boasted that Orlando was the ″first to die for our black cause.″
The justices said Thursday that the trial court erred in overriding a jury recommendation for life imprisonment for Barclay.
In Dougan’s case, the justices said the trial court erred by allowing into evidence testimony about other indictments against him that did not stem from the Orlando slaying.
Justice James Adkins, who dissented in each case, called the Barclay ruling shocking and ″shameful to the judicial system.″
Quoting the note the group sent about the killing, Adkins said he found evidence that the sentence was appropriate.
Two other group members, Dwayne Crittendon and Brad Evans, were convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 199 years in prison. A fifth, William Lee Hearn, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and agreed to testify against the others.
Members of the group also were linked to the murder of another white man in Jacksonville five days after Orlando died.
Barclay was scheduled to die in Florida’s electric chair Jan. 24 1984, but the execution was blocked by the state Supreme Court, which said then that he was denied effective counsel because his attorney on appeals, Ernest Jackson, was married to Dougan’s sister.
The justices promised then to reduce the sentence to life or order a new sentencing hearing.