Judge: Inmate had poor counsel


Published: Thursday, January 2, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 2, 2003 at 12:57 a.m.
FORT LAUDERDALE - A judge has ruled that a man on death row for the 1966 murder-for-hire of a Sebring citrus and cattle baron received "egregious, ineffective assistance" from his former attorney.
William Kelley was represented by famed lawyer William Kunstler during two trials in 1984 for the killing of Charles Von Maxcy. Kelley wasn't charged until 1981, when John Sweet, the man originally accused of the crime, named him as the murderer.
U.S. District Judge Norman C. Roettger said Monday that Kunstler, who died in 1995, was "deficient" for hiring Harvey Brower, a disbarred attorney, to help him on the case.
Kelley's first trial ended in January 1984 with a hung jury, but he was convicted in a second trial three months later.
Kelley's current attorneys, Jim Lohmann and Laurence Tribe, had asked the judge to rule on claims of prosecutorial misconduct and ineffective counsel.
"Let's hope that the state will finally come to see the handwriting on the wall and will soon release Kelley," Tribe said.
The state Attorney General's Office did not return a call Wednesday.
Roettger ruled last year that Kelley should get a new trial because a prosecutor lied about Sweet's immunity deal and withheld evidence in the killing of Von Maxcy, who was fatally stabbed and shot on Oct. 3, 1966, in his home 100 miles south of Tampa.
But another trial is unlikely because Sweet died in 1989.
Sweet testified at both trials that Von Maxcy's wife, his lover, had asked him to arrange the murder because she feared she would be left out of Von Maxcy's $1.7 million estate. Roettger found prosecutor Hardy Pickard withheld a transcript of a taped telephone conversation in which Sweet talked to Irene Von Maxcy about setting somebody up to take the fall for the killing.
Sweet was originally tried for the murder, convicted and sentenced to life.
But Irene Von Maxcy later admitted she had lied on the stand about Sweet's involvement in the murder.
Sweet was then set free and granted immunity for his testimony against Kelley.

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