Circuit, Volusia County Case # 03-35769
Sentencing Judge: The Honorable S. James Foxman
Attorney, Trial: Gerard Keating-Court Appointed
Attorney, Direct Appeal: Todd Scher-Private
Attorney, Collateral Appeals: Richard Kiley-CCRC-M
Date of Offense:
Circumstances of Offense:
71-year-old Howard Wetherell was alone in his Daytona Beach condominium,
when he encountered Richard England and his companion, Michael Jackson.
Jackson had been living with Wetherell, trading sex for money and a
place to stay.
upstairs bedroom, England used a fire poker to repeatedly beat Wetherell
who later died of a cervical spine fracture resulting in suffocation due
to a paralyzed diaphragm.
night, England and Jackson stole Wetherell’s antique guns, jewelry,
silver and Wetherell’s green Mercury Sable car. The two fled to
Orlando, Florida, employing Reynaldo DeLeon, a friend of England’s, to
fence the stolen items.
after the murder, Jackson was arrested after wrecking the stolen car in
Walton County and soon implicated England in the murder. England, taken
into custody on an unrelated violation of probation charge, was later
charged with Wetherell’s murder.
At the trial,
witnesses testified that England claimed Wetherell was a pervert who
deserved to be killed for having sexual relations with a young man.
England also made inculpatory statements to DeLeon claiming
responsibility for the murder.
Death row inmate's sister talks
Lawyers renew efforts to save
September 16, 2008
DELAND -- A condemned killer sat
quietly Monday as his mother and sister testified in his
renewed effort to avoid the death penalty.
Both spoke, sometimes vaguely, of
abuse Richard England suffered at the hands of his father while growing
up in Georgia. The abuse, which included beatings and strict "military
style punishment," was imposed before England was sent away for
murdering a New Smyrna Beach man at age 16. England served 11 years for
that crime before he was released on parole.
In 2004, England, 36, was
convicted for the July 2, 2001, beating death of Howard Wetherell, a
former Daytona Beach planning board member. The killing in Wetherell's
apartment was described as "horrible, brutal, bone-crushing," by Circuit
Judge S. James Foxman, who sentenced England to die after the jury voted
8-4 in favor of recommending the death penalty.
The Florida Supreme Court affirmed
England's conviction and death sentence. But now, England's appeals
lawyers have renewed their effort to save his life. The primary
argument, they say, is that England should get a new trial because his
attorneys were ineffective the first time around.
With that aim in mind, Circuit
Judge James Clayton is presiding over an evidentiary hearing that is
expected to continue Thursday and Friday. The first two witnesses,
England's mother and sister, said Monday they were not asked to testify
in his trial.
Wetherell, 71, died from a broken
neck after he was repeatedly beaten with a fire poker during a robbery.
Michael Douglas Jackson, who had
moved in with Wetherell months before, is now serving a life sentence
for his role in the killing. Taking back what he'd said earlier, Jackson
testified at trial that he was the killer.
There was also a jailhouse snitch,
Steven Diehl, who testified he met England in jail and that England
confessed to him "beating an old pervert" to death with a pipe,
according to court records. Diehl testified in England's trial that
England told him Wetherell deserved to die, because he'd been having sex
with a young man, according to court records.
Taking the stand Monday, Diehl,
who is in custody in Kentucky for a drug offense, said that it was a
corrections officer who first solicited information from him, and not
the other way around.
Attorneys for England now say his
trial lawyers, Gerard Keating and Rob Sanders, failed to adequately
question Diehl to reveal he was being used as an agent for the state.
England's sister, Allison, who
lives in Texas, described being forced to eat junk food with her two
brothers during their childhood until they got sick. "He was pretty
rough on all of us," she said of her father, Ronnie England, who had
adopted Richard England as a baby.
She said that during the trial,
members of the defense team said "they didn't need us" to testify.
"Did Mr. Keating or Mr. Sanders
ever explore these types of things with you with regard to your
brother's trial?" asked James Viggiano, an attorney working for the
state who represents defendants in death penalty appeals. "No, we never
talked about the abuse, no," she said.
"If you were asked about these
things, would you have come in and testified at your brother's trial?"
Viggiano asked her. "Of course," she answered. "I'd do anything for my
Under cross-examination, Assistant
Attorney General Barbara Davis pointed out that she had testified by
telephone about how the strictness of their father, Ronnie England. "You
relayed you had to eat cookies until you were sick, you testified to
everything you testified today," Davis prodded. "Yes ma'am," Allison