TAMPA — Willie Crain, the crab fisherman on death row for the 1998 murder of 7-year-old Amanda Brown, is back in court this week seeking a new trial on the grounds that his attorneys were ineffective.
He says his trial attorneys didn't challenge DNA evidence and failed to push his claim that he didn't give detectives consent to take his clothes and photograph scratches on his body.
He also claims that detectives didn't give him an attorney when he asked for one.
"I asked two times, and they told me I didn't need one," Crain said in court Monday. "And I asked them a third time, and they told me I wasn't getting one."
This comes, prosecutor Jay Pruner noted, from a man who previously boasted to TV cameras about cooperating fully with investigators. The state is contesting Crain's claims.
Amanda Brown disappeared on Sept. 9, 1998. The second-grader's body has never been found, but prosecutors alleged that Crain snatched Amanda from her bed, murdered her and disposed of her body in one of his crab traps in Old Tampa Bay. He had spent the night at her Seffner home just hours after meeting her mother.
One of Crain's trial attorneys, Daniel Hernandez, said his client was "very involved" in his defense.
Roy Brown, the girl's father, sounded resigned outside the courtroom Monday. The Florida Supreme Court has already upheld Crain's conviction and death sentence, but the appellate proceedings continue.
"I want to know where Amanda is," Brown said. "Give him a life sentence, and tell me where my daughter is."
Crain's daughter said she visits her father once a month in prison. She prays every night that both families might find closure.
The hearing is expected to last most of the week and will resume early next year.
Colleen Jenkins can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3337.