Hitchhike killer Aileen Wuornos should have a murder conviction and four death sentences overturned as a result of a disclosure that her first shooting victim was a convicted sex offender, defense lawyers say.
Wuornos admitted killing Richard C. Mallory, but she pleaded self-defense, claiming that he beat her and threatened to kill her during a sexual encounter in his car near Daytona Beach in 1989.
Wuornos was turned into a killer by Mallory's brutality, said her attorney, Steve Glazer, on Tuesday.
The DeLand jury that convicted the self-professed prostitute of first-degree murder in January should have heard evidence that Mallory had served 10 years in a prison mental facility after being convicted of trying to rape a Maryland woman in 1957, her current and former attorneys argue.
Prosecutors said Mallory's background was irrelevant and old. "She got a fair trial. No evidence was withheld," said State Attorney John Tanner of Volusia County.
Wuornos, 36, was sentenced to Florida's electric chair for Mallory's murder and three of six other slayings she has admitted. Two other cases are pending, and investigators have never found a seventh body.
The new evidence "means that she shouldn't be electrocuted," Glazer said. "There is a very real chance that she was acting in self-defense in that first murder.Everything that followed was triggered by that. . . . It was the first murder that turned her into a murderess."
Glazer said he and Wuornos' former attorneys, public defenders Billy Nolas and Tricia Jenkins, want the information on Mallory to be used to seek a new trial, or at least a court hearing.
Glazer will meet with his client on death row early next week, and he expects her to agree to pursue the efforts for a new trial, or at least to argue for a hearing on the claim that evidence was withheld from the DeLand jury.
"If she had gotten a life sentence, she never would have pleaded to the other cases," Glazer said.
Jenkins said a victim's reputation usually is irrelevant in a murder trial. But when the accused pleads self-defense, the victim's past may be relevant.
The new information on Mallory's past was brought to light as part of the research for a future episode of NBC's television show Dateline.
Mallory's time in the Maryland prison mental health facility ended two decades before Wuornos killed him, said Assistant State Attorney Dave Damore, who was part of the Wuornos prosecution team.
"For 20 years, he led a normal, uneventful life," Damore told the Miami Herald. "What happened that far back is irrelevant."