The Zeigler November 2016 appeal

Tommy & Eunice Zeigler, 1973 (Beulah Zeigler Collection)On March 31, 2016, an evidentiary hearing was held for William Thomas Zeigler to request touch DNA testing in his case. Judge Whitehead denied that request for touch DNA on July 18, 2016.

On November 23, 2016, an appeal was filed in the Supreme Court of Florida. In this post I have joined the state’s arguments against the testing with the defense arguments in favour of testing. The link to the documents where the defense replied to the state’s objections is here.

The State tries to justify the Circuit Court’s denial of DNA testing on appeal with four arguments. None of those are logical.

First, the State argues that the DNA Motion is barred by collateral estoppel (Criner v. State), even though the State concedes (admits) that the DNA Motion seeks testing that Zeigler has never before requested and asserts a legal ground for testing based on new technology that Zeigler has never before raised.

Key here is to understand that Zeigler has never asked for touch, mini-STR or Y-STR testing.  In other words, he isn’t asking again for something already done and this isn’t an “identical” issue.

Second, the State claims that Zeigler’s testing request should be denied based on the novel theory – which was never presented to the jury, is not supported by any evidence, and is flatly at odds with the State’s case at trial – that “Zeigler would have had time to change clothes.”

In plain English, the state’s opinion is now that Zeigler had time between butchering four people and being found by police to change his clothes. Where did the extra set of clothes come from and what happened to the bloodied first set? You tell me. The state has that covered too. There was no second set of clothes but a raincoat and gloves. So where is the raincoat and where are the gloves? You tell me.

Third, the State raises an unpreserved and meritless objection to Mr. Eikelenboom’s qualification as an expert – even though the State stipulated to Mr. Eikelenboom’s admission before and his opinions were not disputed by the State’s own expert.

Zeigler presented Mr. Eikelenboom at the March 31, 2016 hearing as an expert in three areas: “DNA testing and analysis, as well as crime scene reconstruction and bloodstain analysis.” The State responded with “no objections.” But now they changed their mind. Mr. Eikelenboom testified only about recent technological advances and what he would expect to find if the new technologies (that were the focus of Mr. Eikelenboom’s opinions) were used on the preserved physical evidence. So he was qualified before but now not anymore.

Fourth, the State claims that the background facts surrounding the murders are irrelevant, suggesting the probative value of the requested testing could be examined in a vacuüm.

In plain English: the court should take an educated guess what the jury might have thought about these DNA tests and pretend that the jury would hear this isolated from all the other evidence in the case. In other words, just ignore the totality of all the evidence.

I have hinted at this before in this post. In the past, many appeals were filed by the defense to point out prosecutorial misconduct, police lying on the stand, withheld evidence, and forensic evidence pointing to other explanations than what the state offered when it charged William Thomas Zeigler with quadruple murder that sent him to death row.

Each time the consequences of the misconduct were dismissed as either procedurally barred or that the complaint was filed too late or that on its own this one single complaint would not have changed the opinion of the jury.

I remain convinced that IF the 1976 jury had been shown ALL the evidence at once, it is unbelievable that it would NOT have created reasonable doubt.

It is time that a judge looks at this case with all the misconduct and all the evidence in its entirety.

What are you afraid of Florida?

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