On Monday morning, jury selection began in the double murder retrial of Clemente Aguirre-Jarquin, who was sentenced to death in 2006 for the murder of his two neighbors. After he was sent to death row, Aguirre-Jarquin’s new lawyers, with assistance from the Innocence Project, secured DNA evidence revealing that the daughter of one of the victims committed the crime. Her blood was found in multiple locations at the crime scene, and she explicitly confessed to the crime to independent witnesses on several occasions.
In the wake of the retrial, retired Seminole County Judge O.H. Eaton—the judge who originally sentenced Aguirre-Jarquin to death—has since come forward and voiced his opposition to the retrial, citing the new evidence that has surfaced since the original conviction.
“The evidence I heard during the trial [in 2006] substantiated the verdict,” Eaton told Orlando Sentinel columnist Scott Maxwell. “The evidence I’ve heard now does not.”
Added Eaton: “If I knew then what I know now, I probably would have ordered the jury’s verdict overturned.”
Eaton said he “struggles to understand why the state is going after this case again.” He doesn’t believe there is sufficient evidence to obtain a conviction—and especially one that would result in a death sentence.
Eaton went so far as to describe Aguirre-Jarquin’s case as the “poster child for why the death penalty is flawed,” said Maxwell.
When State Attorney Phil Archer was asked about why he was proceeding with the retrial, he said he has “sufficient evidence” to do so, noting one victim’s blood being on Aguirre-Jarquin’s clothing (which Aguirre-Jarquin explained came from rolling her over to check for a pulse) and Aguirre-Jarquin, who feared deportation, initially failing to tell police that he found the bodies on the night of the murders.
In response to the multiple confessions to the murders made by the daughter of one of the victims, Archer said they lack credibility due to her “significant mental health issues.”
Maxwell points out the inconsistency in Archer’s statement: “Her confessions shouldn’t be believed now…even though her testimony helped put him on death row before. That seems like flawed logic to me.”
Even the Florida Supreme Court recognized this inconsistency. After reviewing the new evidence in the case, the Florida Supreme Court overturned Aguirre-Jarquin’s conviction in 2016, saying new evidence raised substantial doubts about Aguirre-Jarquin’s role in the crimes and would likely lead a jury to acquit him.
But, despite this ruling by the Supreme Court, Eaton’s opposition and the new evidence that overwhelmingly shows that Aguirre-Jarquin did not commit the crime, the state is trying to, once again, convince a jury that Aguirre-Jarquin committed the murders and that he deserves to be put to death.