A few weeks ago, prosecutor Monique Worrell supported a request for DNA testing in the death of Tommy Zeigler.
However, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office pushes back, finding that the deal was inconsistent with state procedural rules.
Worrell’s office filed a joint motion with Zeigler’s attorneys on May 20, requesting the surrender of all evidence requested to a laboratory for DNA testing.
“I was just delighted that Ms. Worrell was willing to work with us and find out the truth,” said Ralph Hadley, Zeigler’s attorney. “It really bothered me that the former prosecutors and the attorney general were so much more interested in carrying out an execution than seeking the truth.”
Zeigler, 75, spent more than four decades on death row after being convicted of the murder of his wife Eunice on Christmas Eve 1975; her parents Perry and Virginia Edwards; and one customer, Charles Mays; in the family furniture store in Winter Garden.
Then 30, Zeigler was charged in the hospital days after the fourfold homicide. Prosecutors believe that his motive was two life insurance policies totaling $ 500,000 that he had taken out before his wife was murdered. They claim he shot himself in the abdomen to harm Mays and two other men.
Zeigler protests his innocence and says he was shot by the burglars and left to die. Zeigler also said the increase in his wife’s life insurance amount was due to advice on an estate plan, according to court records.
Hadley said new DNA tests would prove Ziegler’s innocence.
However, in the June 1 notice from Moody’s office, Assistant Attorney General Patrick Bobek wrote that the rules for DNA testing following a conviction in Florida require a defendant to be sworn under oath of the evidence to be tested, as well as their innocence and how new tests are having to testify would exonerate her.
It is not the first time that DNA tests have been carried out in Zeigler’s case. In 2005, DNA testing failed to conclude that Mays was the culprit. The Zeigler case was denied DNA analyzes in 2013, 2016 and 2017.
“Previous DNA tests could not excuse Zeigler, and he could not show how further tests could contradict the statements of several witnesses that make his version of events impossible and implausible,” wrote Bobek.
Post-conviction DNA testing also requires notifying the prosecutor – in this case, Moody.
Kylie Mason, associate director of communications for Moody’s office, said the appeals division had notified the court of obligations related to certain determinations and tests required under Florida criminal procedural rules.
“Typically, the department and local attorneys work together as Florida state co-attorneys to reach an agreement on case strategy and then jointly file any documents that seek redress to the court,” said Mason. “On this matter, a clause was filed on behalf of the State of Florida, without the knowledge of the department as co-attorney in the case and in violation of Florida law, compelling our office to notify the court.”
Hadley said the deal was a motion from the prosecutor, which the defense joined.
“It’s a win-win for the state,” he said. “If the evidence does what I think – and that is that he proves his innocence – then it will not execute an innocent person. That’s a win. On the other hand, if I’m wrong … and it proves he is guilty, they can go to bed at night knowing they did their job. … Why are you not ready to seek the truth? “
According to court records, no hearings are scheduled in the Zeigler case.