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Hearing on Newly Discovered Evidence Denied; Florida Prisoner's Death Sentence for Prison Escape Killing Stands

Florida state death row prisoner William Van Poyck appealed the dismissal of his post-conviction motion that introduced new evidence of a "trigger man's" admission. The state Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal because Van Poyck's intent to kill remained unchanged.

Van Poyck and prisoner Frank Valdes pulled guns on guards Fred Griffis and Steven Turner while attempting to free James O'Brien from a doctor-appointment bound prison van in 1990. Valdes shot and killed Griffis in the process. Both Van Poyck and Valdes were sentenced to death.

Another prisoner, Enrique Diaz, later signed an affidavit when released in 2004, claiming that Valdes "repeatedly and consistently" proclaimed that he was the shooter. Diaz said he had waited to submit the information because he feared retaliation, alleging that he had witnessed prison guards kill Valdes in his cell. Van Poyck's motion, which was based on new evidence, was denied. He appealed.

The Supreme Court of Florida held that the newly discovered evidence would not have changed Van Poyck’s intent to kill, because he had loaded the murder weapon. Statutory provisions allowed for dismissal of his motion without an evidentiary hearing if no relief was apparent. A dissenting opinion would have granted the hearing. See: Van Poyck v. State of Florida, 961 So.2d 220 (Fla., 2007), cert. denied.

Frank Valdes was beaten to death by Florida prison guards while on X-wing at the Florida State Prison on July 17, 1999. The guards were acquitted at trial. [See: PLN, Oct. 1999, pp.1 and 3; April 2000, p.8; Jan. 2001, p.6].

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Related legal case

Van Poyck v. State of Florida