News 11.03.10

Florida Death Row Prisoner to Receive New Hearing Based on DNA Evidence

Earlier this week, Florida death row inmate Tommy Zeigler was granted an evidentiary hearing more than 30 years after he was convicted of killing his wife, her parents and another man and one year after filing a request for a new round of DNA testing, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

Zeigler was sentenced to death for allegedly murdering his family and a customer inside his furniture store on Christmas Eve, 1975. Last summer, he asked for new DNA testing on his and the victim’s clothing along with his father-in-law’s tie clip and fingernails.

“If the test results confirm the State’s theory, it will allay doubts that a man has been wrongly imprisoned for so long,” 65-year-old Zeigler wrote in his petition last year and filed with Whitehead. “If the results confirm my innocence, as I contend they will, the evidence can be used to finally set me free.”

At the original trial in 1976, blood evidence on Zeigler’s shirt was said to have belonged to his father-in-law. DNA testing showed that the blood actually belonged to the customer. And additional testing on the customer’s clothing was found to belong to Zeigler’s father-in-law.

A judge denied an earlier request for a new trial from Zeigler, ruling that the results would not change the outcome of the trial. Zeigler has maintained that the customer was among a group of men who attacked him and his family that night. His attorney argued in a 2004 hearing that the new evidence supported Zeigler’s story.

“My father-in-law was brutally beaten by either his murderer or the murderer’s accomplice,” Zeigler wrote in his newest appeal. “Further testing on my shirts will demonstrably show that there is no blood of [my father-in-law] on my clothing — as there would be had I actually beaten and killed [him].”

During the 2004 hearing, a DNA expert said that only a small part of Zeigler’s bloodstained shirt was tested.

The evidentiary hearing will be held in February.



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