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James William HAMBLEN





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robberies
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: March 1984 / April 24, 1984
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: 1929
Victims profile: Debbie Abbott, 20 / Laureen Jean Edwards, 34 (store owner)
Method of murder: Shooting (.38 caliber automatic pistol)
Location: Texas/Florida, USA
Status: Executed by electrocution in Florida on September 21, 1990

Supreme Court of Florida
Briefs and Opinions


Docket #68843 - James William Hamblen, Appellant, vs. State of Florida, Appellee.
527 So. 2d 800; June 2, 1988.



initial brief of appellant


Docket #74269 - James William Hamblen, Petitioner, vs. Richard L. Dugger, etc., Respondent. 546 So. 2d 1039; July 6, 1989.



petition for extraordinary relief


response to petitioner's petition for extraordinary relief


reply to state's response to petition for writ of habeas corpus


Docket #76315 - James William Hamblen, Appellant, vs. State of Florida, Appellee.
565 So. 2d 320; July 16, 1990.



answer brief of appellee


response in opposition to application for stay of execution


application to stay to execution and consolidated request


James William Hamblen, 61, executed Sept. 21, 1990, for the April 24, 1984 shooting death of Laureen Jean Edwards during a robbery at the victim's Jacksonville lingerie shop. Third warrant.


Florida Executes Convict for Killing Store Owner

The New York Times

September 22, 1990

A 61-year-old inmate was executed in Florida's electric chair this morning for killing the owner of a lingerie shop in Jacksonville six years ago.

The inmate, James William Hamblen, was pronounced dead at 7:12 A.M. He had been convicted of killing the 34-year-old store owner, Laureen Jean Edwards, in a robbery attempt after fleeing Texas, where he had killed another woman.

Mr. Hamblen had said several times that he was eager to be executed, but he recently began cooperating with legal efforts to block his execution. On Thursday the United States Supreme Court turned down a final request for a stay. The vote was 7 to 1, the sole dissent coming from Justice Thurgood Marshall, who objects to capital punishment in all cases.

'System Failed,' Lawyer Says

Before his electrocution this morning, Mr. Hamblen smiled, winked and stuck his tongue out at witnesses.

Judith Dougherty, one of his state-financed lawyers, said afterward that he was mentally ill and added, ''The system failed Jim Hamblen.''

Jon Peck, a spokesman for Gov. Bob Martinez, said in Tallahassee of the electrocution, ''No problems - just strictly, procedurally, routine.'' Florida's electric chair malfunctioned during an execution in May, and three jolts of electricity were required to kill a condemned prisoner, Jesse Tafero.

Mr. Hamblen became the 140th prisoner in the United States and 24th in Florida to be executed since a 1976 Supreme Court ruling allowed states to resume use of the death penalty.

Mr. Hamblen, who spent the night before his execution listening to classical music, also made a written request to prison officials that Robert Edwards, his victim's husband, be given a special area to wait during the execution instead of in a cow pasture across from the prison where the public and reporters gather.

''These are good people, and they deserve better than this,'' Mr. Hamblen wrote.

Six at Candlelight Vigil

Prison officials said they did not make special arrangements, and Mr. Edwards waited at the cow pasture. He refused to comment.

While two death penalty supporters applauded when the execution was confirmed, six opponents of executions held a candlelight vigil, complaining that executions were becoming routine.

The convicted killer, who once called himself ''a lost cause,'' said he shot Mrs. Edwards in the back of the head because she pressed a silent alarm button when he tried to rob her on April 24, 1984. He also admitted that he killed Debbie Abbott, a 20-year-old woman he was dating, less than a month before in Spring, Tex.


Supreme Court of Florida

No. 68,843

James William Hamblen, Appellant,
State of Florida, Appellee,

June 2, 1988


Pursuant to article V, section 3(b)(l) of the Florida Constitution, we review the unusual case of James William Hamblen, a state prisoner who is condemned--and apparently willing and determined--to die for the murder of a woman whose store he wanted to rob. The case raises an issue never before considered by this court.


On April 24, 1984, Duval County Sheriff's officers responded to a silent alarm at a Jacksonville boutique. When the officers arrived, they saw a tall, middle-aged man inside the store. At first they thought he was the proprietor or an employee, but when they could not get him to open the locked door, they became suspicious.

When he finally emerged, the officers told him that the alarm had summoned them. The man, who later identified himself as James William Hamblen, responded that he was aware of this and stated that he had "just killed a woman inside."

In a dressing room, the officers found the partially clothed body of Ms. Laureen Jean Edwards. She had been shot once in the back of her head. Another shot apparently had struck the wall of the dressing room.

Hamblen was arrested, and a .38 caliber automatic pistol was taken from him. The arresting officers reported that Hamblen offered no resistance to arrest and that he was lucid and coherent.

At police headquarters Hamblen gave a statement. He said he had driven to Florida from Texas (where, he alleged later, he had murdered an estranged lover). He needed money to park his rental car at the airport, and decided to steal the necessary funds.

While driving around the Jacksonville area, one store, the Sensual Woman, caught his eye as a potential target. Finding Ms. Edwards alone in the store, Hamblen pulled his gun and told her he wanted money. She gave him a small amount of cash from her cash drawer. He then told her to go into a dressing room and disrobe.

Hamblen told police he had no intention of sexually abusing Ms. Edwards; he only wanted to make it difficult for her to follow him as he made his escape. According to Hamblen, his pistol fired accidentally in the dressing room as the woman disrobed.

Ms. Edwards then told Hamblen she had more money in the back of the store. She said she would take him to it if he would accompany her. As they proceeded toward the rear, he saw her touch a button that he suspected (correctly) was for a silent alarm. Angered that "anybody could be so stupid over so little money," Hamblen ordered her back into the dressing room where he shot her once in the back of the head.

The physical evidence at the scene bore out Hamblen's story. The medical examiner reported that Ms. Edwards died from a single bullet wound from a .38 caliber weapon held at close range. He said that the gun barrel probably touched her head.

She had not been sexually abused. Death was virtually instantaneous. Shell fragments and a spent bullet recovered at the scene were determined to have been fired by the gun taken from Hamblen.


After a grand jury indicted Hamblen for first-degree murder, his public defender moved for psychiatric examinations.

Both doctors reported that Hamblen was competent to stand trial and was legally sane at the time of the offense. Upon receiving news of the doctors' reports, Hamblen asked the court to revoke the appointment of the public defender and allow him to represent himself. He simultaneously announced his intention to plead guilty.

The trial judge conducted a hearing according to the requirements of Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806 (1975), and Goode v. State, 365 So.2d 381 (Fla. 1978), cert. denied, 441 U.S. 467 (1979), to determine Hamblen's fitness for self-representation.

The evidence at this hearing showed that Hamblen had had two years of college education, that he understood courtroom procedure, and that he had represented himself while a state prisoner in Indiana. The judge determined that Hamblen met the criteria that enabled him to exercise his right of self-representation, but ordered two assistant public defenders to be in the courtroom as emergency backup counsel.

Hamblen pleaded guilty and waived his right to have a jury consider whether he should be executed. The state introduced evidence concerning the circumstances of the crime. The state also introduced evidence that Hamblen had been convicted of rape in Indiana in 1964.

Hamblen asked his standby counsel to cross-examine only one witness, a police records custodian from Indiana. He accepted the state's version of the facts and even conceded one point as to his prior record that the state was having some difficulty establishing.

He presented no evidence of mitigating factors and commented that It was a purely technical matter concerning whether James William Hamblen, the name under which Hamblen had been arrested and indicted in Florida, and James William Hamblen, Jr., who had been imprisoned in Indiana for rape, were the same person.

Hamblen announced to the court that he dropped the Jr. from his name when his father died and that it was he who had been convicted of rape in Indiana in 1964. the prosecutor "has correctly assessed my character, and certainly has established the aggravated nature of the crime. Therefore, I feel his recommendation of the death penalty is appropriate."

Hamblen went on to note that the probation officer, one Chance, had recommended life imprisonment without hope of parole "so that I may reflect upon the senselessness of my crime."

Hamblen continued: Mr. Chance might have a valid point if I were a young man with a whole lifetime ahead of me and with a whole pocketful of hopes and dreams

. . . . But, as a matter of fact, I'm 55, almost 56 years old and I don't harbor any dreams that are going to be realized in this world, and I am not particularly given to reflection.

Therefore, it seems to me that Mr. Chance's recommendation in this instance is inappropriate and [the prosecutor] Mr. Bledsoe's, on the other hand, is appropriate.

After reviewing the record, including the psychological reports, the trial judge sentenced Hamblen to death. The judge found three aggravating factors--cold, calculated and premeditated manner, previous conviction of a felony involving violence against another person, and committed in the course of a robbery--and none in mitigation. Hamblen did not take an appeal from the sentence, but the public defender's office was appointed as appellate counsel. After his motion to withdraw was deniedt2 the public defender prosecuted this appeal...



We affirm Hamblen's judgement and sentence of death. It is so ordered.



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