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Florida Supreme Court overturns death sentence of former Jabil executive

Three years ago, Patrick A. Evans stood before a judge as he received his sentence for the 2008 murders of his wife and her friend: death.

But Evans will now get a second chance.

In an opinion released Thursday that cited errors in the testimony of a detective and a prosecutor's remarks during Evans' trial, the Florida Supreme Court overturned his first-degree murder convictions and death sentences.

They remanded the former Jabil Circuit executive, now 48, to receive a new trial.

"The whole thing is disappointing," said William Loughery, the Pinellas-Pasco assistant state attorney involved in the 2011 trial. "These families have to go through this all over again. The person is clearly guilty."

Evans was a Jabil vice president, earned a six-figure salary and lived in a St. Pete Beach waterfront home. His wife, Elizabeth Evans, was a sales director and had a daughter. They did not have children together.

They were married for about three years when they separated in 2008. Evans, who had been married twice before, filed for divorce, but later dismissed his petition. Elizabeth Evans, 44, later filed for divorce and moved out. She rented a condo at 6080 Gulfport Blvd. S in Gulfport.

On Dec. 20, 2008, she was on a date with a co-worker, Gerald Taylor, 43. At her condo later that day, Evans showed up and confronted them inside her bedroom, prosecutors said during his trial.

Someone called 911, but hung up. When a dispatcher called back, the call was picked up. Although no one answered, the call recorded Elizabeth as she said "Rick," a name that Evans went by. A man can be heard on the audio ordering them to sit on the bed. At one point, Taylor can be heard ordering the intruder to put the gun down.

Moments later, shots were fired.

Pinellas sheriff's deputies found Elizabeth and Taylor. Both had been shot in the neck. She died at the scene. He later died at a hospital.

The recording was among the strongest pieces of evidence in the case. Shell casings at the scene also matched shells fired from the .40-caliber Glock handgun that Evans owned.

Evans was arrested and indicted on two counts of first-degree murder. A jury convicted him and recommended the death penalty in 2011. The next year, then-Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Richard Luce sentenced him to death, calling the murders "premeditated . . . without any provocation."

Luce, now retired, could not be reached for comment.

An appeal was filed in October 2012. Cynthia Dodge, an assistant public defender in Polk County who handled the appeal, did not return a reporter's call for comment.

Three justices dissented in the 52-page opinion, but the others questioned Pinellas sheriff's Detective Edward Judy's testimony and several remarks by Loughery, the prosecutor.

Judy testified that he believed the voice of the intruder in the 911 call was Evans because he had listened to his jail phone calls several times and was familiar with Evans' voice. But the court ruled that Judy "did not have prior familiarity with Evans or special training in voice recognition."

"It's extremely disappointing, a huge waste of taxpayer money," Judy said Thursday. He retired from the Sheriff's Office in 2013. "My opinion is it's still his voice. That doesn't change. I did say it, and I'm saying it again."

The Supreme Court also flagged the prosecutor for being too speculative.

While cross-examining Evans, Loughery asked if he had hired a private investigator to spy on Taylor. The court ruled that the question was "based on hearsay," and "inadmissible."

The court also took issue with other comments, including Loughery failing to explain to the jury that manslaughter is also considered a "heat of passion killing" or his remarks about the defense's theory, at one point saying "that wouldn't even make it on TV" and "only in a world populated by defense attorneys would that be true."

Reached by phone Thursday, Loughery said: "As a prosecutor, I don't think it's my duty to acquiesce to absurdities, which is apparently what the court is asking us to do."

David Parry, the attorney who represented Evans during the trial, said he was pleased to learn of the court's decision.

"There's so many easier ways to do a case where you don't have to degrade the defense and the defendants," he said. "I'm glad that the court was able to look at it."

Loughery, who retired this year, said that several people had told him Elizabeth believed Evans had hired an investigator. The jury receives instructions, he added, which would have clarified his statement about heat of passion killings.

"That was totally made in good faith," he said of his question to Evans, "and I would ask it again."

Times staff researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Laura C. Morel at lmorel@tampabay.com. Follow @lauracmorel.

Florida Supreme Court overturns death sentence of former Jabil executive 11/12/15 [Last modified: Thursday, November 12, 2015 10:29pm]
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