MANATEE -- The man on death row for 25 years for fatally shooting Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Jeff Young on Aug. 18, 1987, near the Interstate 75 bridge over the Manatee River recently lost an appeal that may now expedite his execution.
Daniel Burns Jr.'s petition was denied by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, according to a letter Young's family received from Jessica Allard, a victim services specialist in the Florida attorney general's office.
Allard confirmed she sent the letter regarding the appeal.
For Young's family, which has campaigned recently for justice to be served for Young, the letter was a major breakthrough, family members said.
"We have been waiting for 25 years for this," Young's half-brother, David Smith, said Thursday. "It's been way too long in coming. Burns has been on death row for 25 years. That's ridiculous. This letter means that he is not allowed to file anything else in federal court."
Burns can still file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, Smith said.
"The U.S. Supreme Court turned him down once, and I believe they will turn him down again," Smith said. "He has been on death row since 1988. I talked to Ms. Allard
and she told me Burns has 90 days to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court."
If the Supreme Court turns down a future appeal, a death warrant can be signed, Smith said.
On that August day in 1987 Young pulled over a vehicle and asked the driver, Burns, to step outside. He searched the vehicle and found cocaine.
According to numerous eyewitness accounts, Burns wrestled Young to the ground, grabbed the trooper's gun and aimed at his head.
On his knees, Young reportedly begged for mercy. He was shot and killed, point-blank in the face. The bullet deflected off his wedding band.
The bridge near where Young died is now named after him.
David Smith, who has the same mother as Young but a different dad, is now 71. He said Thursday he has been waiting for justice since he was 46 and his brother was killed.
"If there was any element of doubt it would be one thing, but this happened along I-75 with numerous witnesses," Smith said. "He's sat up there for 25 years, way too long."
Burns had an appeal denied by the Florida Supreme Court three years ago.
Burns remains an inmate on death row at Florida State Prison near Starke.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.