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Hertz v. Jones

Supreme Court of Florida

May 18, 2017

JULIE L. JONES, etc., Respondent.


         Original Proceeding - Habeas Corpus

          Clyde M. Taylor, Jr., of Taylor & Taylor, LLC, Saint Augustine, Florida; and Billy H. Nolas, Chief, Capital Habeas Unit, Office of the Federal Public Defender, Northern District of Florida, Tallahassee, Florida, for Petitioner

          No appearance for Respondent

          PER CURIAM.

         This case is before the Court on the petition of Guerry Wayne Hertz for a writ of habeas corpus. We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § 3(b)(9), Fla. Const.


         We previously detailed the facts surrounding Hertz's case on his direct appeal:

In the early morning hours of July 27, 1997, the charred bodies of Melanie King and Robin Keith Spears were found in the victims' burning home in Wakulla County, Florida. Hertz, Jason Looney, and Jimmy Dempsey were each indicted for the first-degree murders of the victims, and each codefendant was also charged with burglary of a dwelling while armed, armed robbery with a firearm, arson of a dwelling, and use of a firearm during the commission of a felony as a result of this incident. Prior to trial, codefendant Dempsey negotiated a plea with the State and was sentenced to consecutive life sentences in return for providing his testimony at Hertz and Looney's joint trial.
The evidence presented at the trial revealed the following facts. At approximately 11 p.m. on July 26, 1997, Hertz and his codefendants left an acquaintance's house on foot within walking distance from the victims' home. All three men were armed with guns. A resident who lived about 500 yards from the victims testified that Hertz appeared at her door at about 2 a.m. asking to use her phone because "his truck had broken down." When she refused, the trio continued down the road towards the victims' home and, upon seeing the victims' black Mustang, Looney said, "There's my car right there. That's the one I want."
Dempsey and Hertz went to the victims' front door as a decoy and asked if they could use the phone. King provided them with a cordless phone, and Dempsey feigned making a phone call. When Dempsey attempted to return the phone, Hertz pointed his gun at King and forced his way in. Looney then entered and pointed his rifle at Spears. Spears and King were bound and gagged with duct tape and placed face down on their bed. Hertz and his codefendants removed a significant amount of the victims' property, including a VCR, a television, jewelry, furniture, and CDs, and loaded the victims' belongings into the victims' two vehicles. Looney also found approximately $1500 of the victims' money in an envelope, which was ultimately divided equally among the three.
Hertz and Looney concluded that they could leave no witnesses and informed Dempsey of their decision. Dempsey said Hertz and Looney then poured accelerants throughout the victims' home. All three men, still armed, went to the bedroom where the victims were bound, side-by-side, face down on their bed. When they entered the back bedroom, King said that she would "rather die being burnt up than shot." She stated, "Please, God, don't shoot me in the head." Hertz replied, "Sorry, can't do that, " and then he proceeded to open fire; Looney followed and then Dempsey. The victims died as a result of the gunshot wounds.
Subsequent to the shootings, the victims' home was set ablaze. Hertz drove away in the victims' white Ford Ranger, and Looney drove the victims' black Ford Mustang, with Dempsey as a passenger. According to Dempsey, the whole episode at the victims' home lasted about two hours. The trio proceeded to Hertz's house and unloaded the stolen items and divided up the money. Two employees at the Wal-Mart in Tallahassee testified that the three men made purchases at the store at around 5 a.m. the morning of the murders, before "showing off" their new vehicles, i.e., a black Mustang and a white Ford Ranger, to both of the employees. A Wal-Mart receipt for a clothing purchase was later found in the victims' Mustang, corroborating the employees' testimony.
Hertz and his codefendants made their way to Daytona Beach Shores where, later that day, they were involved in a pursuit and shootout with police. Looney and Dempsey were arrested after abandoning and fleeing from the victims' black Mustang. Hertz abandoned the victims' Ford Ranger after being shot, and he paid a cabdriver $100 to drive him to his aunt's house in St. Augustine. Hertz was arrested ...

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