Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

State High Court Tosses Man's Conviction in '08 Death; Police Didn't Honor the Suspect's Right to Remain Silent, Justices Rule

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

State High Court Tosses Man's Conviction in '08 Death; Police Didn't Honor the Suspect's Right to Remain Silent, Justices Rule

Article excerpt

Byline: Larry Hannan

The Florida Supreme Court has thrown out the conviction and death sentence of Randall Deviney, saying Jacksonville police who questioned him in a 65-year-old woman's slaying did not honor his constitutional right to remain silent.

Deviney, 23, was convicted of slitting the throat of Dolores Futrell in August 2008 with a fish filleting knife in her Westside home on Bennington Drive.

He was sentenced to death by Circuit Judge Mallory Cooper in 2010 after the jury that convicted him recommended death by a 10-2 vote.

The conviction was later affirmed by the 1st District Court of Appeal.

Attorneys for Deviney, who was 19 at the time of the crime, argued that when police first questioned him, he became upset and told them multiple times that he was done speaking.

Police ignored those comments and kept questioning him, and Deviney eventually confessed to killing Futrell. That videotaped confession was shown to jurors at trial.

Under the law an interrogation must stop if a suspect invokes his right to remain silent, the Florida Supreme Court said in its unanimous ruling, citing the U.S. Supreme Court's Miranda ruling.

"We conclude that Deviney unequivocally invoked his right to remain silent and end the interrogation," the Florida Supreme Court said. "By continuing questioning after that unequivocal request, the detectives violated that right, causing an involuntary confession by Deviney."

Deviney is expected to remain in prison until he is tried again. He has a previous criminal history that includes arrests for aggravated assault, robbery and sexual battery.

Sheriff John Rutherford said the court was wrong to throw out the conviction.

"I am reviewing the court's decision and how the interrogation was conducted," Rutherford said. "From what I've been told, I know the suspect was given his Miranda warning and never asked for an attorney."

The State Attorney's Office is "reviewing the opinion and will take the appropriate action," spokeswoman Jackelyn Barnard said.

Assistant Public Defender Greg Messore, who defended Deviney at his original trial, said the decision is a message that courts take Miranda rulings seriously, and police need to follow the rules.

Messore expects Deviney to be retried and said the loss of the confession weakens the prosecution's case.

At the start of the police interview of Deviney, detectives told him he was not under arrest, the door was unlocked and he could leave whenever he wanted. The police read Deviney his Miranda rights and questioned him about Futrell's slaying.

Deviney told police he didn't know who killed Futrell and spent most of that night at home alone. After about an hour the detectives got permission from Deviney to get a sample of his DNA.

But police already had his DNA from a previous arrest and knew his DNA had been found under Futrell's fingernails when they brought him in. …

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