Four times, James Morgan has been tried for stabbing a 66-year-old Stuart woman to death in 1977. Four times, most recently on Tuesday, he has been sentenced to death. Morgan, now 29, escaped death after three previous convictions because the state Supreme Court ruled he was not given an adequate chance to present his insanity defense. He was tried and convicted in 1977, 1981 and 1985. His fourth trial ended with a guilty verdict Feb. 5. Morgan had been cutting Gertrude Trbovich's lawn in June 1977 when he asked to use her telephone. He saw her writing a letter and feared she was informing his mother that he had been drinking, according to testimony. He then beat Ms. Trbovich with a crescent wrench and a vase and stabbed her 67 times.Ex-revenue director pleads innocent
TALLAHASSEE _ Former state revenue director Katie D. Tucker has pleaded innocent to a felony charge of official misconduct. Her lawyer, Lorence Bielby, said a written plea was filed for Tucker earlier this week. Tucker was accused of falsifying official records, which falls under the official misconduct law. State law enforcement officials say Tucker fabricated and backdated a memo to help clear herself of allegations that she ordered a tax investigation of a former political opponent of her husband. Tucker resigned from the Revenue Department earlier this month.
Stepfather of slain boy wants new judge
BARTOW _ The stepfather of Bradley McGee wants a different judge to preside over his first-degree murder trial. Thomas J. Coe, 22, of Lakeland said Polk Circuit Judge J. Dale Durrance can't be fair and impartial because he is biased against Coe's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Robert A. Norgard. A hearing is set for March 2. Coe and his wife, Sheryl McGee Coe, are charged with murder and aggravated child abuse in the death of 2-year-old Bradley in July. Prosecutors said the toddler died after being repeatedly dunked head-first in a toilet after soiling his pants. Coe's trial is set for July.
Suspended council member reinstated
JACKSONVILLE _ Clarence Suggs was reinstated Tuesday to the Jacksonville City Council by Gov. Bob Martinez after Suggs' acquittal on federal extortion and perjury charges. Suggs, 66, was suspended Oct. 3 after he was indicted by a federal grand jury. Prosecutors alleged Suggs used his city government office to extort contractors into doing business with his steel company, a charge he vehemently denied. After a two-week trial, a federal judge found Suggs innocent on all counts last Friday.
Bill would make college free for some
TALLAHASSEE _ Several Florida lawmakers say the promise of a free college education for qualified low-income students would encourage the students to stay in school and keep their grades up. The legislators are drafting a bill that would require the state to pay four-year tuition costs at a state university for some low-income students. To qualify, students would have to graduate from a Florida high school with a minimum grade-point average of 2.5 on a 4.0 scale, have no criminal record, score a minimum of 18 out of a maximum score of 36 on the American College Test and demonstrate financial need. State Rep. Joe Arnall, R-Jacksonville, the primary sponsor of the bill, estimates the law would cost about $5-million in the first year if tuition were paid for about 2,500 students. He said the cost would grow to about $50-million over the next 10 years.