1983 murderer of teen set for execution

JACKSONVILLE — An inmate who killed a Tampa junior high school student more than 25 years ago is facing execution by lethal injection, while his attorneys proclaim his innocence and seek a last-minute stay.

Wayne Tompkins is scheduled to die at 6 p.m. today at Florida State Prison near Starke for the March 1983 murder of 15-year-old Lisa DeCarr, the daughter of his girlfriend.

Tompkins, 51, was originally scheduled to die Oct. 28, but appeals caused delays. On Feb. 2, Gov. Charlie Crist rescheduled the execution after receiving notification from Attorney General Bill McCollum that all stays had been lifted.

Tompkins’ attorneys, Marty McClain and Neal Dupree, say Tompkins is not guilty and have asked the Florida Supreme Court to give him a stay to allow more time to do more DNA tests on the victim’s bones and other evidence.

The trial court in Tampa turned down a request Tuesday for more DNA testing and Tompkins’ attorneys appealed that denial to the Florida Supreme Court. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied Tompkins’ appeal and request for a stay of execution without comment Tuesday afternoon.

The attorneys say reports from the FBI and Florida Department of Law Enforcement show there was more biological material bearing DNA than was previously known, including hair found on clothing in the grave where Tompkins buried the girl.

They claim if the testing shows the DNA does not belong to the girl, it would exonerate Tompkins and support witness statements who claimed to have seen DeCarr alive after the state said she had died.

The reports from the law enforcement agencies produced inconclusive results. The appeals attorneys said there are more sensitive and expensive tests to help unlock the DNA sequence. Prosecutors claim Tompkins is trying to litigate DNA issues that have already been addressed by the Florida Supreme Court, which said additional testing would not exonerate Tompkins.

The Innocence Project of Florida also asked Crist to delay the execution to allow more time for testing.

“We still harbor grave concerns about the legitimacy of Mr. Tompkin’s guilty verdict. We feel strongly that more time is necessary to look into the case,” wrote Seth E. Miller, the organization’s executive director.

In December, the state high court rejected another request from Tompkins to let his lawyers investigate and present constitutional challenges based on a new sworn statement by a key witness.

A former inmate, Kenneth Turco, who testified Tompkins admitted to him he was the killer now says a prosecutor told him to give the jury false information. The justices offered no explanation for their decision but previously called the false testimony a harmless error.

Turco said Tompkins, who lived with the girl’s mother, strangled the junior high student with the belt of her bathrobe when she rebuffed his attempt to sexually assault her by kicking him the groin. He later said he presented false testimony about Tompkins burying DeCarr with her pocketbook, a detail he said he received from a prosecutor.

However, Justice Harry Lee Anstead, who retired earlier this year, wrote in a dissent in the ruling that, “Surely, common sense would tell us this is the kind of ‘bombshell’ disclosure that could change the jury’s entire evaluation of the case.”

Tompkins’ death warrant has been signed by two previous Florida governors, Bob Martinez in 1989 and Jeb Bush in 2001 and his case has gone through a series of appeals.

Two other inmates have been executed since Crist took office, Mark Dean Schwab on July 1, 2008, and Richard Henyard on Sept. 23, 2008.

A total of 66 inmates have been executed in Florida since it resumed the death penalty in 1979, 44 of them in the electric chair.