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Gerald Delane MURRAY





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Rape - Robbery
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: September 15, 1990
Date of birth: February 5, 1969
Victim profile: Alice Vest, 59
Method of murder: Strangulation with an electrical cord
Location: Duval County, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on April 15, 1994. Resentenced to death in 1999 and 2003

Florida Supreme Court

opinion 83556 opinion SC95470
opinion SC03-1241

DC# 291140
DOB: 02/05/69

Fourth Judicial Circuit, Duval County Case# 92-3708
Sentencing Judge:  The Honorable Alban E. Brooke
Judge, Retrial (I):  The Honorable William Wilkes, L. Haldane Taylor
Judge, Retrial (II):  The Honorable Hudson Olliss
Attorneys, Trial:  Roberto Arias & Stephen Weinbaum – Court-appointed
Attorneys, Direct Appeal:  Fletcher N. Baldwin, Richard W. Smith &
Sheppard – Assistant Public Defenders
Attorney, Direct Appeal (Retrial I):  Tom Fallis – Court-appointed
Attorney, Direct Appeal (Retrial II):  Pro Se & Richard Kuritz – Private  

Date of Offense:  09/15/90

Date of Sentence:  04/15/94

Date of Resentence: 03/19/99

Date of Resentence:  06/26/03

Circumstances of the Offense:

On 03/09/94, Gerald Delane Murray was convicted of first-degree murder, burglary with an assault, and sexual battery with great force.  Murray was sentenced to death for the murder and life for the other two offenses.

At around midnight on 09/15/90, Murray and his friend, Steven Richard Taylor, were dropped off at a mobile home neighborhood by a friend (James “Bubba” Fisher) where the victim, 59-year-old Alice Vest, lived.  A Ford Ranchero was reported stolen from a residence near the place where Murray and Taylor had been dropped off. 

At around 4:30 a.m., a passing motorist noticed the vehicle parked in a driveway next door to the mobile home where Vest lived.  Later that day, the Ford Ranchero was found abandoned behind a used car dealership, located only a few blocks away from where Taylor lived at the time.

That same morning of 09/15/90, residents of the mobile home neighborhood where Vest lived discovered Vest’s badly beaten body in the bedroom of her mobile home.  According to the testimony of the medical examiner, Vest had been vaginally and anally raped, strangled, and stabbed approximately 20 times. 

The medical examiner testified that most of the stab wounds were made with a knife, and the remaining stab wounds were made with a pair of scissors, both of which were found at the scene of the crime.  The initial cause of death was ligature strangulation.  Vest was alive while she was being stabbed, and she was strangled with an electrical cord after the stabbings. 

The examiner pointed out multiple fractures found on Vest’s lower jaw, indicating that she received several blows to the head, which were done with a bottle, metal bar, and candlestick.  These items were also found at the scene of the crime.  Finally, the medical examiner testified that Vest’s breasts were bruised, as a result of “impacting, sucking, or squeezing” while she was alive. 

In the medical examiner’s opinion, Vest was alive for approximately ten minutes from the first stabbing to the strangulation.  The medical examiner was unsure whether Vest was conscious during all or any part of the attack.  According to other trial testimony, the phone line to Vest’s mobile home had been cut, the mobile home had been burglarized, and various pieces of jewelry were missing.

During trial, the State admitted hair evidence recovered from Vest’s mobile home.  Hair evidence was also sent to an FBI lab in Washington, D.C., for comparison with known hair samples from three persons: Murray, Taylor, and Vest.  The hair expert from the FBI concluded that the hairs found on Vest’s nightgown and body were pubic hairs that had the same microscopic characteristics of Murray’s hairs.  Taylor was excluded as a possible source of the hairs.

Additional evidence at the trial revealed that, approximately six months after his indictment for Vest (11/22/92), Murray escaped from Duval County Jail and was accompanied by a fellow inmate, Anthony Smith.  Smith testified for the State that Murray confessed to the rape, robbery, and murder of Vest. 

On 06/09/93, approximately seven months after his escape, Murray was captured in Las Vegas, Nevada.  At the time of his arrest, he was carrying two false identification cards.

Codefendant Information:

Steven Richard Taylor (DC# 288500)

Taylor was convicted and sentenced to death for first-degree murder, 15 years for burglary of a dwelling, and 27 years for sexual battery.  Taylor was tried separately for his offenses (CC# 91-2456). 


Trial Summary:

02/24/94          Indicted as follows:

Count I:           First-Degree Murder

Count II:          Burglary with Assault

Count III:         Sexual Battery with Great Force

03/09/94          Jury returned guilty verdicts on all counts of the indictment

03/28/94          Jury recommended death by a vote of 11-1

04/15/94          Sentenced as follows:

Count I:           First-Degree Murder – Death

Count II:          Burglary with Assault – Life

Count III:         Sexual Battery with Great Force – Life

03/06/98          Jury unable to reach a verdict

10/12/98          Judge L. Haldane Taylor presiding

02/03/99          New jury impaneled and sworn

02/12/99          Jury returned guilty verdicts on all counts and recommended death by a vote of 12-0

03/19/99          Resentenced to death

05/22/03          New jury impaneled and sworn

06/19/03          Jury returned guilty verdicts on all counts

06/26/03          Resentenced to death by a vote of 12-0


Case Information:

Murray filed a Direct Appeal to the Florida Supreme Court on 04/20/94.  He raised numerous issues.  First, Murray claimed the trial court abused its discretion in ten ways: by permitting the state to peremptorily challenge three jurors; in denying Murray’s motion to suppress hair evidence seized pursuant to an allegedly defective search warrant; in allowing the state’s expert to testify about the results of DNA typing because the state’s method of DNA typing and probability calculations do not meet the Frye test for admissibility; by admitting hair evidence recovered from the victim’s body and from the victim’s nightgown because the evidence had been tampered with; in denying Murray’s motions for continuance at trial and penalty phase; in admitting evidence of Murray’s pre-trial escape, theft of automobiles, and possession of false identification; in excluding the testimony of three defense witnesses concerning Murray’s true motive for escape; in overruling Murray’s objection to the standard heinous, atrocious, or cruel instruction and denying Murray’s requested instruction on that aggravator; in rejecting Murray’s statutory and nonstatutory mitigating factors; and, in admitting hearsay evidence concerning Murray’s prior violent felonies at the penalty phase.

Second, the prosecutor’s comments during the guilt phase closing argument deprived Murray of a fair trial.  Third, the evidence at trial was insufficient to support Murray’s convictions.  Fourth, the trial court erred in finding the especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel aggravating factor.  Fifth, the trial court improperly doubled the felony murder and pecuniary gain aggravating factors.  Sixth, the trial court erred in finding that the murder was committed for pecuniary gain.  Seventh, the prosecutor’s comments during the penalty phase closing argument deprived Murray of a fair trial.  Eighth, section 921.141 (7), Florida Statutes (1995), which allows presentation of victim evidence in a capital sentencing proceeding is unconstitutional.  Ninth, the trial court’s use of Murray’s contemporaneous convictions for burglary and sexual battery to support the felony murder aggravating factor violated Murray’s right against double jeopardy.  Tenth, the trial court improperly instructed the jury regarding its role in the sentencing process.  Eleventh, the record does not support the death penalty.  Twelfth, Florida’s death penalty statute is unconstitutional because electrocution constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.  Thirteenth, Murray’s death sentence is disproportionate.  Finally, the trial court erred in enhancing Murray’s sentence for burglary and imposing it to run consecutively to his death sentence.  

On 04/17/97, the Court reversed Murray’s convictions and remanded for retrial.  The Court questioned the admissibility of DNA evidence used against him because no semen or fingerprints were found at the scene to connect Murray to the crime; Murray’s case relied heavily on extensive DNA evidence.

On 04/29/99, Murray filed a Direct Appeal (Retrial I) to the Florida Supreme Court.  On 10/03/02, the Court reversed Murray’s convictions, vacated sentences and death sentence, and remanded for a new trial because the testing of DNA evidence in his case did not meet scientific standards.

Murray filed for a Direct Appeal (Retrial II) to the Florida Supreme Court on 07/14/03, which is currently pending.



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