Condemned inmate claims prosecutor misconduct, seeks sentence reversal

A convict in a gruesome 1999 double-murder in Jacksonville is challenging his death sentence. Not just challenging it, but making claims that prosecutors knowingly broke rules in obtaining it.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Proceedings continued Thursday, as attorneys for convicted murderer Jason Andrew Simpson try to have his death sentence – even his conviction – overturned.

Simpson was sentenced to death in 2007 for the 1999 ax-murders of 38-year-old Archie Crook, Sr. and Kimberli Kimbler, 29, on Jacksonville's Westside. According the Department of Corrections, Simpson and Crook had been previously involved in the sale of illegal drugs, and Simpson had become a confidential informant for Jacksonville Police.

In their 122-page claim, Simpson attorneys Sonya Rudenstine and John Mills have laid out a laundry list of contentions. It includes claims that Simpson received ineffective counsel during his trial and that newly-discovered evidence has surfaced.

It also accuses the prosecution, led by then assistant state attorneys Melissa Nelson and Mark Caliel, called a witness they knew to be lying when he testified. Simpson’s side says seven-time convict George Durrance’s testimony was pivotal in securing a guilty verdict and death sentence. Simpson’s lawyers further claim that Durrance has even recanted his testimony that Simpson admitted the killing to him.

But the State flatly denied those contentions on Thursday.

“We don’t think that he recanted, nor do we think that his testimony at trial was false,” Seventh Circuit Asst. State Attorney Mitch Bishop told First Coast News outside the courtroom. “However, again, that’s one of the things that the judge is going to decide based off the evidence he sees in this hearing.”

Given the ongoing status of the case, Bishop offered little comment other than pointing out that the burden of proof is on Simpson’s lawyers.

Bishop’s office has been called upon to defend the original conviction and sentence on behalf of the State of Florida. For its part, the office of Melissa Nelson, who now serves as Fourth Circuit State Attorney, told First Coast News, “…our office continues to deny the allegations in this matter. All other questions need to be directed to the Seventh Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office, which is handling the case.”

Jason Simpson’s lawyers declined to comment Thursday saying they were suffering illness. For that reason court also adjourned early, with proceedings to resume at 9 a.m. Monday, Nov. 13.

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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