FL Supreme Court Refuses To Block Execution In 1994 Jacksonville Murder Case

The Florida Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected appeals by Death Row inmate Gary Ray Bowles, who is scheduled to be executed next week for the 1994 murder of a Jacksonville man who was hit in the head with a concrete block and strangled.

Justices unanimously denied a request by Bowles’ attorneys for a stay of the Aug. 22 execution. The attorneys argued in a brief last month that the Supreme Court should order a hearing about whether Bowles is intellectually disabled and, as a result, should be shielded from execution.

But the Supreme Court said Bowles had failed to make a “timely” intellectual disability claim because he did not raise the issue until 2017.

“Bowles waited until October 19, 2017 to raise an intellectual disability claim for the first time,” the court’s 10-page main opinion said. “Therefore, the record conclusively shows that Bowles’ intellectual disability claim is untimely under our precedent.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a death warrant in June for Bowles, who would be the second inmate executed since the Republican governor took office in January. Tampa-area serial killer Bobby Joe Long was put to death by lethal injection on May 23 at Florida State Prison.

Bowles, now 57, was sentenced to death in the November 1994 murder of Walter Hinton, who was found dead in his Jacksonville mobile home. Bowles also is serving life sentences for the 1994 murders of John Roberts in Volusia County and Albert Morris in Nassau County. In addition, Bowles confessed to murdering men in Georgia and Maryland, with evidence suggesting he targeted gay men, according to information released in June by the governor’s office.

Tuesday’s Supreme Court opinion gave a brief description of the grisly murder of Hinton.

“Bowles confessed and pleaded guilty to the 1994 murder of Walter Hinton, who had allowed Bowles to move into his home in exchange for Bowles’ help in moving personal items. Specifically, Bowles dropped a concrete block on Hinton’s head while Hinton was sleeping, then manually strangled a conscious Hinton, and subsequently ‘stuffed toilet paper into Hinton’s throat and placed a rag into his mouth,’ ” the opinion said, partially quoting an earlier court ruling.

In addition to raising the intellectual-disability issue, Bowles’ attorneys also contended that Florida’s death penalty violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. In a document filed last month, they wrote that “capital punishment as administered in Florida, and as applied in this case, is contrary to the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.”

But the justices turned down the argument, writing that “because the United States Supreme Court has made clear that capital punishment does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment of the federal constitution, we cannot invalidate Bowles’ death sentence as cruel and unusual.”

Photo used under Creative Commons license.

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