US attorneys try to block Jamaican's execution

Published: Friday | February 22, 2013 Comments 0

Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer

A team of attorneys in the US state of Florida have launched a desperate series of last-ditch manoeuvrings hoping to stall the execution of a Jamaican man, even though officials there have begun making preparations for his execution in just over 72 hours.

Paul Augustus Howell, a 47-year-old, who authorities charged was part of a South Florida drug ring, was convicted for killing Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Jimmy Fulford in February 1992 and is scheduled to be executed next Tuesday.

But Ida Ufferman, one of the lawyers representing Howell, is insisting that he did not get a fair trial and said her team filed a motion in Florida's Federal Court on Wednesday to temporarily spare his life and get a new trial.

"We are already waiting for the Federal Court to decide and whatever they decide, if they don't stay it, we will go to the Eleventh Circuit (court) and to the Supreme Court, " Ufferman vowed.

She said a separate motion was expected to be filed late yesterday or today, also seeking to block Tuesday's execution.

Letter to the governor

In addition, Ufferman said her team has already written to Florida's Governor Richard Scott asking him to rescind Howell's execution warrant and is preparing to file papers with Scott's office seeking clemency on behalf of the Jamaican.

"We don't believe justice was served in this case and Mr Howell has not received his day in court," Ufferman told The Gleaner yesterday.

The Florida Supreme Court voted unanimously on Tuesday to deny an appeal by Howell and an application for a stay of execution.

Ufferman revealed that Howell has managed to remain "pretty calm", even though he admitted that he was bothered by all the preparations taking place around him for the execution.

As part of those preparations, she said he has already been measured by prison personnel who are seeking to ensure that they have "the right straps to strap him down for the execution".

"He is a Christian man and that gives him strength," Ufferman said, noting that Howell's parents and other relatives have been providing support.

Fulford was killed instantly after a bomb Howell had hidden in his car, gift-wrapped as a microwave oven, exploded during a traffic stop in eastern Tallahassee.

Authorities believed the bomb was intended to kill two women in Marianna because they knew too much about his South Florida drug operation.

However, Ufferman's team has argued that a key issue in the case was a "substantial" conflict of interest by Howell's trial attorney Frank Sheffield, who is now a circuit judge in Tallahassee.

Ufferman said the conflict of interest claim, which will form the basis of Howell's current legal fight, was never heard in Federal Court because his initial appellate attorney missed a filing deadline.

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