State Postpones Execution of Florida Trooper's Killer

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Associated Press Release

STARKE, Fla. (AP) -- The execution of a South Florida drug trafficker, convicted of killing a state trooper with a pipe bomb, is on indefinite hold.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused the state's request to lift a stay of execution just hours before Paul Augustus Howell was set to die by lethal injection Tuesday.

The Atlanta-based 11th U.S. District of Appeal on Monday temporarily blocked the execution so it could consider a last-ditch appeal.

The state appealed to Justice Clarence Thomas who referred the case to the full court.

Howell was convicted of killing Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Jimmy Fulford in 1992 with a bomb placed inside a gift-wrapped microwave oven.

Authorities said it was intended to kill two Marianna women, but Fulford stopped a car carrying the package for speeding near Tallahassee.

Associated Press Release

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- A federal appellate court has stopped the execution for now of a drug trafficker convicted of killing a Florida state trooper with a pipe bomb.

The 11th U.S. District Court of Appeal in Atlanta granted the stay to Paul Augustus Howell on Monday. He is scheduled to be executed Tuesday.

Howell's lawyers are appealing a federal judge's rejection of a last-ditch appeal. Chief U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers, though, certified an appeal to the 11th Circuit.

The South Florida drug ring member was convicted of murdering Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Jimmy Fulford in 1992. Fulford stopped a car for speeding in north Florida. He was killed when he opened a gift-wrapped microwave oven with the bomb inside after finding it in the vehicle.

Authorities say Howell intended the bomb kill two Marianna women because they knew too much about a drug-related killing.

Associated Press Release

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP), February 6, 2013 - A drug trafficker convicted of killing a state trooper is asking the Florida Supreme Court to block his scheduled Feb. 26 execution.

Lawyers for Paul Augustus Howell asked the justices for a stay of execution and filed a post-conviction appeal on Wednesday.

Circuit Judge Angela Dempsey previously denied Howell's appeal in Jefferson County. That's where Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Jimmy Fulford was killed by an exploding pipe bomb in February 1992.

The bomb was in a gift-wrapped microwave oven Fulford found in a car he stopped for a traffic violation on Interstate 10 east of Tallahassee.

Howell was convicted of building the bomb that he intended to kill two women in Marianna because they knew too much about a South Florida drug trafficking ring.

Jefferson County, FL, September 18, 2008 - The State has only pursued the death penalty in a handful of cases in recent years... but it's been many years since a crime in this area has resulted in a death sentence. In 1992, a defendant Paul Howell was sentenced to death in January 1995, and today, he's still sitting on death row.

On February 1, 1992 State trooper Jimmy Fulford made a traffic stop on a rental car speeding on interstate-10 in Jefferson County.

Inside the trunk of the car was a package holding a bomb in a microwave oven that was allegedly meant for a woman in Marianna, Florida. While conducting a search of the car, the trooper opened the package and was killed in an explosion.

To ensure a fair trial, the venue was moved to Pensacola and a jury there convicted Howell of murder and imposed the death penalty. Frank Sheffield is one of about four or five attorneys in the area who are certified to represent defendants in death sentence cases, and represented Howell in the trial phase.

"Because of the nature of the charges, the case law and the way that our death penalty statute is set up, death penalty is a rarity in today's murder cases," says Sheffield.

In Howell's case, the jury came back ten to two in favor of the death penalty... and since then, Howell has exhausted his appellate and post conviction options.
Clyde Taylor represented Howell after he was convicted and sentenced to death. Taylor says right now Howell has a clemency request at the Florida Governor's office.

"I think one of the issues that the Governor's office was concerned about was the issue of whether or not protocol was followed when the package was opened by the trooper without a warrant, without backup, without having it checked by a sniff dog," explains Taylor.

Taylor also says the Governor's office could grant Howell clemency or issue a death warrant. Taylor says that warrant will give the date Howell is to be put to death... and he'll have up to that day to try to get a stay of execution.

Another case where death was imposed was in Wakulla County in 1999. Assistant State Attorney Eddie Evans says Guerry Wayne Hertz and Jason Looney were tried and convicted of murdering Melanie King and Robin Keith Spears in July 1997. Court records show Hertz and Looney stood trial for forcing their way into King and Spears' home, binding them and gagging them with duct tape, shooting them several times, burning down their home with King and Spears still in it and stealing their cars. The jury voted ten to two to recommend the death penalty, and the trial judge sentenced both Hertz and Looney to death. Evans says they are both still on death row.

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