This undated photo provided by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, shows Michael Lambrix in custody. (/ AP)
STARKE — The state is scheduled to execute a man tonight who was convicted of murdering two people in southwest Florida decades ago after a long night of drinking.
Barring a successful last-ditch appeal filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, Michael Lambrix is scheduled to die by lethal injection at Florida State Prison at 6 p.m.
He would be the second inmate to be put to death since the state restarted executions in August.
Before then, the state had stopped all executions for months after a Supreme Court ruling that found Florida’s method of sentencing people to death was unconstitutional. In response, the state Legislature passed a new law requiring death sentences to have a unanimous jury vote.
Lambrix’s attorney, William Hennis, is arguing to the nation’s high court that because his client’s jury recommendations for death were not unanimous — the juries in his two trials voted 8-4 and 10-2 for death — they should be thrown out. The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that Lambrix’s case is too old to qualify for the new sentencing system.
“This Court should consider whether executing Lambrix when a jury did not unanimously recommend a death sentence and Florida law no longer permits a death sentence to be imposed unless the jury unanimously consents constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment,” Hennis wrote.
Lambrix was convicted in 1983 of killing Clarence Moore and Aleisha Bryant after a long night of partying in Labelle, about 30 miles northeast of Fort Meyers.
He and his roommate, Frances Smith, had met the victims at a bar, and returned to their trailer to eat spaghetti and continue the party, prosecutors said.
At some point after returning to the trailer, Lambrix asked Moore to go outside. He returned about 20 minutes later and asked Bryant to come out as well, according to Smith’s testimony.
Smith testified at trial that Lambrix returned to the trailer alone after the killings, his clothes covered in blood. The two finished the spaghetti, buried the two bodies and then washed up, according to Smith’s testimony cited in court documents.
Prosecutors said he choked Bryant, and used a tire iron to kill Moore. Investigators found the bodies, the tire iron and the bloody shirt.
Lambrix has claimed in previous appeals that it was Moore who killed Bryant, and that he killed Moore only in self-defense.
“It won’t be an execution,” he told reporters in an interview at the prison Tuesday. “It’s going to be an act of cold-blooded murder.”
Lambrix’s first trial ended in a hung jury. The jury in the second trial found him guilty of both murders, and a majority of jurors recommended death.
He was originally scheduled to be executed in 2016, but that was postponed after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in a case called Hurst v. Florida, which found Florida’s system for sentencing people to death was unconstitutional because it gave too much power to judges, instead of juries.
Florida’s Supreme Court has ruled that the new death sentencing system only applies to cases back to 2002.
Hennis called that decision “seemingly random,” and said the way in which the court is deciding which cases get chosen for new sentencing hearings “will erode public confidence (in) the system and the death penalty.”
Florida’s high court has already weighed in on the issue, saying Lambrix has had decades of appeals and time to argue every issue in his case.
“It is clear that Lambrix has not been denied the opportunity to claim any constitutional right, nor has any right been denied to him without full consideration and review,” the court wrote.
“To the contrary, for more than thirty years, Lambrix’s multiple claims have been reviewed and rejected. Thus, we conclude that Lambrix is not entitled to relief.”