A prison escapee sentenced to death for stabbing a woman in the Tallahassee Mall parking lot now wants a new trial.
It's been nearly 14 years since that murder stunned Tallahassee, but Donald Dillbeck claims his attorney made a critical mistake at his trial and he wants Florida's Supreme Court to toss out that guilty verdict.
Donald Dillbeck was serving time for murder when police say he walked away from a prison work detail in Quincy and killed a woman in the Tallahassee Mall parking lot as he tried to steal her car. It was the summer of 1990.
Dillbeck later confessed to the crime in court, hoping a jury would spare him the death penalty. It didn't. Dillbeck's latest attorney is arguing the case before the Florida Supreme Court. He contends Donald Dillbeck never gave his public defender the green light to essentially admit guilt and hope for mercy.
"Nobody ever asked him, 'Mr. Dillbeck, are you in agreement with this? Do you understand what you're doing'? It was generally discussed around him and the fact that he sat there and didn't say anything frankly is not that unusual, most defendants sit there and let their lawyers do the talking," says George Blow, Dillbeck's attorney.
State prosecutors contend Dillbeck had repeated opportunities to say he objected to the strategy and questioned why he would then take the stand and confess to the murder.
"He plead guilty to the jury. He's the one who got up on the stand and admitted to the underlying facts of the case. That makes it very different. That makes it like pleas that occur everyday across the state and across this nation," says Charmaine Millsaps, assistant Attorney General.
The Supreme Court will rule on Dillbeck vs. Florida at a later date. There was a lot of talk about another Tallahassee murder case during that hearing Tuesday.
Donald Dillbeck's lawyer used essentially the same argument as attorneys for Joe Elton Nixon, who was granted a new trial by the Florida Supreme Court last summer.