Convicted serial killer appeals case to Fla. Supreme Court

Published: Sep. 9, 2020 at 11:56 AM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) — The Florida Supreme Court will soon decide whether Gary Michael Hilton should have his death sentence upheld or reversed.

Hilton’s attorney argued before the state’s high court Wednesday morning that Hilton’s death sentence should be overturned, and the case sent back to a Leon County courtroom for a new jury to decide life or death.

Oral Arguments - September 9, 2020

Oral arguments presented LIVE from the Florida Supreme Court.

Posted by Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday, September 9, 2020

The original jury unanimously recommended a death sentence for Hilton in 2011 and the judge imposed it.

Hilton’s attorney, Robert Morris, argued for a new penalty phase citing infighting among his trial defense team and a failure to argue Hilton was ineligible for the death penalty due to “severe mental illness.”

An attorney for the state argued none of that would have made a difference.

“He hunted women,” Michael Kennett said. “He hunted people for fun and he killed them.”

Cheryl Dunlap, a Crawfordville Sunday school teacher and nurse at FSU, was kidnapped from Leon Sinks in December 2007 and her decapitated body was found in the national forest weeks later.

Her cousin, Gloria Tucker, attended Hilton’s trial back in 2011 and watched the Florida Supreme Court proceedings on the internet Wednesday morning.

She didn’t comment on the appeal itself, saying only, “One day it’ll all be over, whether he gets life or death ... if he dies from the death penalty or dies a natural death in prison.”

“Hilton has stayed true to his promise to cause the State of Florida to spend millions of dollars on his trials and subsequent appeals because the State of Florida would not give him a life sentence,” Tucker said. “Hopefully, one day, this nightmare will end.”

Florida’s Supreme Court rejected Hilton’s first appeal in 2013. It is unclear when it will rule on this one.

Sept. 8, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Convicted serial killer Gary Michael Hilton is appealing his case to the Florida Supreme Court.

Justices heard oral arguments in the case Wednesday morning.

Hilton was convicted and sentenced to death for the 2007 kidnapping and murder of Crawfordville Sunday school teacher and FSU nurse, Cheryl Dunlap. Dunlap disappeared from Leon Sinks and her dismembered body was found weeks later in the Apalachicola National Forest.

A judge sentenced Hilton to death for it in 2011 after a unanimous jury recommendation

Hilton’s attorney is asking the Florida Supreme Court to overturn the death sentence, claiming Hilton’s defense team was ineffective.

His attorney calls infighting among attorneys during the penalty phase "a veritable “Peyton Place.” Hilton’s attorney also contends defense lawyers should have argued Hilton was ineligible for the death penalty due to “severe mental illness.”

Both Hilton’s attorney and a prosecutor from the Attorney General’s Office will have 20 minutes to argue their case.

Hilton is serving three other life sentences for the murders of Meredith Emerson in Georgia and John and Irene Bryant in North Carolina.

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