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Death row inmate awarded new trial in double ax killing

Jason Simpson.jpg
Florida Department of Corrections
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Jason Simpson

The Florida Supreme Court has ordered a new trial for a death row prisoner convicted of hacking a drug dealer and his girlfriend to death in 1999 in Duval County.

The court said Jason Simpson should receive a new trial because prosecutors did not disclose that a witness against him was a confidential informant for the state.

Simpson was convicted in the murders of drug dealer Archie Howard Crook and Crook’s pregnant girlfriend, Kimberli Kimbler. They were hacked to death with an ax in the bedroom of their Westside home, according to the Supreme Court ruling.

The witness whose work as an informant had not been disclosed was Crook’s son, Archie Clyde Crook — identified in the ruling as “Little Archie.” Simpson’s defense attorneys argued during the trial that Little Archie had killed his father and Kimbler.

Little Archie had served as an informant against another man, George Michael Durrance, who was described in the ruling as being an associate of the Crook father and son and Simpson in the drug trade.

Durrance also was a figure in the Simpson murder case, and the Supreme Court, in a 5-1 decision, said Little Archie’s role as a confidential informant should have been disclosed.

The majority opinion said the “relationship between Simpson, Little Archie, and Durrance was of critical importance in this case, and the information Little Archie provided to law enforcement pertaining to Durrance casts a different light on this relationship.”

The opinion, shared by Justices Ricky Polston, Jorge Labarga, Alan Lawson, John Couriel and Jamie Grosshans, also said “Little Archie’s testimony and credibility were of significant consequence when we consider the lack of evidence linking Simpson to the scene of the crime.”

The State Attorney's Office said Thursday that it was reviewing the ruling before commenting.

Chief Justice Charles Canady dissented from the majority, writing that the failure to disclose the information about the informant “was not material and did not prejudice Simpson.”

“The fact that Little Archie had been a source to law enforcement in unrelated matters is of little, if any, relevance, and in light of the other information known to the jury about Little Archie, would not have been an indication that he had a particular bias toward law enforcement or the state,” Canady wrote. “There is no reasonable probability that had this information been disclosed to Simpson, the result of Simpson’s trial would have been different.”

Justice Carlos Muniz was recused from the case.

Simpson, now 48, is held at Union Correctional Institution, according to the Florida Department of Corrections website.

Jim Saunders is the Executive Editor of The News Service Of Florida.