1. Archive

Reversal of conviction may stand in murder case

It looks like Scott Burnside is coming back to Citrus County.

The Attorney General's Office said Friday that it will not ask an appeals court to reconsider its decision to grant the Floral City murder suspect a new trial.

In addition, it's unlikely lawyers with that office would take the next step: ask the Florida Supreme Court to review the case.

When appellate options are exhausted, Burnside will head this way for a second trial.

In January 1993, a jury found Burnside guilty of murder, conspiracy, solicitation and being an accessory after the fact. The state successfully argued that Burnside helped form the plot that led to the deaths of four men in Floral City in August 1990.

But the 5th District Court of Appeal, in a decision issued June 7, threw out the convictions and the four life sentences Burnside was serving.

Why? Because Circuit Judge John Thurman let the jury hear inadmissible hearsay evidence. And because Burnside's right to effective legal counsel was compromised when Thurman refused to remove Burnside's attorney from the state witness list.

A three-judge panel from the nine-judge appellate court considered the case and issued the ruling. The state could have asked the same panel to reconsider, or it could have asked the full court to have a look.

Belle Turner, of the Attorney General's Office in Daytona Beach, said her office decided to pass on those options. Lawyers still have another two weeks or so to decide whether a plea to the Florida Supreme Court is possible.

To do that, she said, the office would have to show that the 5th DCA's opinion stands in conflict with similar opinions from other appellate courts in Florida, or that it strays from guidelines that the high court itself has set.

Burnside joins John Barrett as suspects in the Floral City case who have received new trials. A third defendant, Dorsey Sanders III, has been convicted and the 5th DCA has upheld the conviction and sentence on appeal.