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Dailey’s co-defendant refuses to testify in Pinellas death penalty case

James Dailey, who faces execution for the 1985 murder of a Pinellas teen, hoped Jack Pearcy’s testimony might exonerate him. But in court Thursday, Pearcy would answer no questions.
 In an evidentiary hearing in the case of James Dailey, who faces execution for the 1985 murder of Shelly Boggio in Indian Rocks Beach, co-defendant Jack Pearcy, right, speaks to the judge, Thursday, March 5, 2020 in Pinellas County.  The hearing concerns a new statement from  Pearcy, Dailey's co-defendant, in which he claims that Dailey was not involved in the murder. Dailey can be seen on the far left.
In an evidentiary hearing in the case of James Dailey, who faces execution for the 1985 murder of Shelly Boggio in Indian Rocks Beach, co-defendant Jack Pearcy, right, speaks to the judge, Thursday, March 5, 2020 in Pinellas County. The hearing concerns a new statement from Pearcy, Dailey's co-defendant, in which he claims that Dailey was not involved in the murder. Dailey can be seen on the far left. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]
Published Mar. 5, 2020
Updated Mar. 5, 2020

LARGO — The man James Dailey hoped might spare him from execution stood before a judge Thursday morning and calmly refused to testify.

Jack Pearcy, who also was convicted in the 1985 murder of 14-year-old Shelly Boggio but is serving a life sentence, would not answer any questions, even as his parents and a judge tried to cajole him.

“I can’t help bring Shelly back or the pain her family has already suffered,” Pearcy said.

He had been asked to testify about a written declaration he signed in December in which he took sole credit for the crime.

“James Dailey had nothing to do with the murder of Shelly Boggio,” the document reads. “I committed the crime alone."

But in a deposition in state prison last week, Pearcy retracted the apparent confession. He professed his own innocence, decried the work of prosecutors and law enforcement and asserted that Dailey killed Boggio.

In an evidentiary hearing in the case of James Dailey, who faces execution for the 1985 murder of Shelly Boggio in Indian Rocks Beach, Dailey, center, is seated in court in Pinellas County Thursday.
In an evidentiary hearing in the case of James Dailey, who faces execution for the 1985 murder of Shelly Boggio in Indian Rocks Beach, Dailey, center, is seated in court in Pinellas County Thursday. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]
Related: In Pinellas death case, co-defendant retracts confession. Again.

In court Thursday, a defense attorney suggested that Pearcy’s mother may have told him not to testify or take credit for the murder. He pointed to a series of recorded prison phone calls she made to her son in the weeks since he signed the declaration.

Sally Simon, a slight woman with white hair, told the judge she called her son after seeing news stories about his confession.

“Naturally when I saw it in the paper without hearing it from Jack first, I was upset,” she said. She didn’t say she’d told him not to testify. She said she told him to tell the truth.

Sally Simon, center, and Robert Simon, left, the parents of Jack Pearcy, tried to convince their son to testify Thursday in court in Pinellas County during a evidentiary hearing in the case of James Dailey. Dailey faces execution for the 1985 murder of Shelly Boggio, 14, in Indian Rocks Beach. Pearcy refused to testify.
Sally Simon, center, and Robert Simon, left, the parents of Jack Pearcy, tried to convince their son to testify Thursday in court in Pinellas County during a evidentiary hearing in the case of James Dailey. Dailey faces execution for the 1985 murder of Shelly Boggio, 14, in Indian Rocks Beach. Pearcy refused to testify. [ SCOTT KEELER | TAMPA BAY TIMES ]

Pearcy, short and bearded, with tattooed arms and a thick head of bushy brown hair, strode past a bank of TV cameras as he entered the cavernous courtroom. He glanced toward a defense table.

Dailey, 73, sat in an orange death row shirt amid a row of lawyers. Through thick glasses, he locked eyes with his co-defendant.

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa stood from the bench and addressed Pearcy at length.

“I’m not here to pass judgement on you in any way, sir,” the judge said. "I’m not going to treat you like an idiot or pretend there’s any way I can threaten you into testifying. ... Today is your day to set the record straight.”

Pearcy, 64, nodded a few times, but he still refused to answer questions. Instead, he pointed to the deposition he gave a week ago.

“I answered every question,” he said. “I said I didn’t kill Shelly ... Testifying is not going to change my situation in any way whatsoever.”

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Related: Two men are in prison for the same Florida murder. One may be innocent. He also may be executed.

He was taken back to a holding area while the attorneys and the judge discussed what to do.

Dailey’s defense lawyers noted that Pearcy did not want to make the journey from prison and did not want to be held in county jail. They suggested the judge hold him in contempt and order him to stay in jail for 30 days.

Prosecutors objected.

“We want this over today,” said Assistant State Attorney Sara Macks. “Enough is enough. The state’s position is we have today and it’s done.”

Ultimately, Pearcy’s mother and stepfather were allowed to visit with him privately. They tried to persuade him, they said. Afterward, he returned to the courtroom. He stepped up to the witness stand and swore to tell the truth.

But as Dailey’s defense attorney Josh Dubin asked about their meeting in December, Pearcy just stared. He stayed silent.

The judge tried again. He asked Pearcy if he felt a responsibility to follow the laws of the state of Florida.

“Yes,” he said. But he still refused questions.

“I’ve done 35 years for a crime I didn’t commit," he said. "And I don’t plan on testifying against anybody else to help the state kill them.”

 In an evidentiary hearing in the case of James Dailey, who faces execution for the 1985 murder of Shelly Boggio in Indian Rocks Beach, co-defendant Jack Pearcy, right, refuses to testify in court Thursday, Circuit Court Judge Pat Siracusa, left, said he was disappointed in Pearcy for his refusal.
In an evidentiary hearing in the case of James Dailey, who faces execution for the 1985 murder of Shelly Boggio in Indian Rocks Beach, co-defendant Jack Pearcy, right, refuses to testify in court Thursday, Circuit Court Judge Pat Siracusa, left, said he was disappointed in Pearcy for his refusal. [ SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times ]
Related: As James Dailey faces execution, co-defendant says ‘I committed the crime alone.’

Dailey and Pearcy were convicted of Boggio’s murder in separate trials. Her nude body was found one morning in May 1985 in the Intracoastal Waterway near the Walsingham Road Bridge in Indian Rocks Beach. She had been beaten, choked, stabbed 31 times and ultimately drowned.

Thursday, with Pearcy out, Dailey’s defense asked the judge to consider his 145-page deposition as testimony.

Dubin argued that Pearcy’s statements in the deposition show that he was alone with Boggio during the two-hour time period when she was killed. The judge seemed skeptical.

The defense also asked to review recordings of 12 other phone calls between Pearcy and his mother, a request the judge granted.

Siracusa set a deadline of April 16 for both sides to present written arguments. He will issue a ruling on whether there should be further proceedings by May 1.

During a lull in the hearing, Dailey appeared to weep, dabbing at his eyes with a tissue.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed his death warrant in September, setting an execution date for November. But in October, a federal judge granted Dailey a temporary stay of execution to give his attorneys more time to research the case and argue their claims.

Since then, all of Dailey’s appeals have been rejected. No new execution date has been set.

Several relatives from Boggio’s family attended the hearing. At the end, her sister, Kalli Boggio, addressed the judge.

“Our family has been through enough,” she said. “It needs to come to an end.”

“I’m working on it,” the judge said.