Juan Ignacio Blanco  


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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery - Drugs
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: November 27, 1987
Date of birth: April 19, 1967
Victims profile: Nicholas and Ralph Grandinetti (brothers)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Marion County, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on September 6, 1988

Florida Supreme Court

opinion 73064

DC# 112967
DOB:  04/19/67

Fifth Judicial Circuit, Marion County Case# 87-2719-CF-AW
Sentencing Judge:  The Honorable Raymond T. McNeal
Trial Attorney:  James Reich Ė Assistant Public Defender
Attorney, Direct Appeal:  Michael S. Becker Ė Assistant Public Defender
Attorneys, Collateral Appeals:  Harry P. Brody & Linda McDermott Ė Registry

Date of Offense:  11/27/87

Date of Sentence:  09/06/88

Circumstances of the Offense: 

On 11/27/87, Anthony Ponticelli arrived at Keith Dotsonís house around 6:30 p.m. or 7:00 p.m. Ponticelli stayed for approximately 30 to 45 minutes.

Around 7:30 p.m., Ponticelli was seen at Ralph and Nick Grandinettiís house. Timothy Keese, the Grandinettiís roommate, heard the three discussing money that Ponticelli owed the two brothers for cocaine. Ponticelli told the two that he would sell the cocaine that they currently had and then settle up with them in regard to the money that he owed them. The two brothers agreed to take Ponticelli to sell the cocaine. The three left the house. Keese left the house and when he returned neither of the Grandetti brothers was there.

Ed Brown, Dotsonís cousin who was at Dotsonís house, stated that Ponticelli returned to Dotsonís house with two people in the car. Ponticelli told Brown that he intended to kill the two brothers for money and cocaine. Ponticelli showed the gun to Brown and told him that he would need a ride back to Ponticelliís house later. Brown begrudgingly agreed to give Ponticelli a ride later and gave him Dotsonís phone number.

Dennis Freeman, Ponticelliís cellmate after arrest, testified that Ponticelli stated the following events. Ponticelli shot the two Grandetti brothers in the head. He shot the driver first with two shots and then the passenger once. The passenger was still alive.

Joseph Leonard, Ponticelliís best friend, testified that Ponticelli arrived at his house around 9:30 p.m., after the shooting. Ponticelli returned a gun that Leonard had allowed him to borrow. At this time, Ponticelli stated that he ďdid NickĒ and asked Leonard what he should do with the bodies. Ponticelli told Leonard that the Grandettiís had been harassing him about money that he owed them and would not let him leave their house until they got their money. Ponticelli then left Leonardís house. Upon leaving Leonardís house, Ponticelli got a flat tire and abandoned the car with the bodies still in it.

Around 11:30 p.m. Ponticelli took a cab back to Dotsonís house. He told Dotson that he had shot the Grandetti brothers in the car for cocaine and $2000. Brown testified that Ponticelli asked him if he thought a person could live through being shot in the head. Ponticelli told Brown that he had heard one of the men moaning. Brown stated that he told Ponticelli not to worry. Ponticelli washed his clothes while at Dotsonís house and Brown then drove him home.

The Grandetti brothers were found on 11/28/87. Nick Grandetti was found on the floorboard of the car. His head was badly injured, and he was gasping for air and kicking his foot. His head was covered with blood, and there was blood spattered all over the car. Nick survived until 12/12/87. He died of cardiac arrest, which was secondary to the gunshot wounds. An autopsy showed that Nick had suffered two gunshot wounds to the back of the head, and he had a number of bruises on the back and side of his head, which was consistent with blunt force trauma. The skin on his right ear was red and peeling, which was consistent with hot pressure being placed upon the ear for an extended period of time. Ralph Grandetti was dead in the back seat of the car when the two were found. The medical examiner stated that Ralph died within two minutes of being shot. He was shot once in the head at close range.

On 11/29/87, Ponticelli burned some clothing in Ronald Halseyís backyard. Halsey testified that he asked Ponticelli why he was burning his clothes and Ponticelli told him that he had shot two men who he owed money for cocaine. Ponticelli stated that he shot both of the men in the head and threw one in the back seat. The other man was still moving so Ponticelli related that he hit him in the head with the butt of the gun a number of times. Ponticelli then stated that he had a flat tire, so he took several grams of cocaine and $90 in cash.

Leonard gave the police the murder weapon and provided them with a statement. This evidence and statement resulted in Ponticelliís arrest.

Trial Summary:

11/27/87          Indicted as follows:

Count I:           First-Degree Murder

Count II:          First-Degree Murder

Count III:         Armed Robbery Using a Weapon

12/21/87          Defendant entered a written plea of not guilty

01/11/88          Defendant filed a motion to change plea. The hearing was scheduled for 02/29/88

02/18/88          Order for Substitution of Counsel was granted based on a conflict the Public Defenderís Office had due to their previous representation of one of the witnesses

07/25/88          Motion to rely on insanity defense was entered

08/12/88          Defendant was found guilty of both counts of First-Degree Murder

08/18/88          Jury recommended death by a vote of 9-3

09/06/88          Sentenced as follows:

Count I:           First-Degree Murder Ė Death

Count II:          First-Degree Murder Ė Death

Count III:         Armed Robbery Using a Weapon Ė Dismissed

Case Information:

Ponticelli filed a Direct Appeal in the Florida Supreme Court on 09/08/88. The main issues raised in regard to the guilt phase were the court incorrectly found Ponticelli competent to stand trial and that three statements made to the police investigator should have been suppressed.

The Court stated that there was sufficient evidence to support the trial courtís ruling on Ponticelliís competency to stand trial. In addition, the court agreed with Ponticelli that the second statement was inadmissible, but that the error was harmless. All of the issues raised in regard to the penalty phase were rejected.

The Florida Supreme Court affirmed Ponticelliís conviction and sentence on 10/10/91. The rehearing was denied on 03/09/92, and the mandate was issued on 04/08/92.  

Ponticelli filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the United States Supreme Court on 06/08/92. The USSC granted certiorari and remanded the case to the Florida Supreme Court for further consideration in light of Espinosa v. Florida on 10/05/92 due to the rejection of the claim regarding the constitutionality of the aggravating factors of heinous, atrocious, or cruel and cold, calculated, and premeditated.

The Florida Supreme Court issued a revised opinion on 03/04/93. The opinion stated that the challenge to the instruction given for the aggravating factors was procedurally barred because there was no request for specific instructions or objections raised at the time of the trial. Therefore, the court affirmed Ponticelliís conviction and sentence. The rehearing was denied on 05/27/93, and the mandate was issued on 06/28/93.

Ponticelli filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the United States Supreme Court on 08/25/93. The petition was denied on 10/18/93.

Ponticelli filed a 3.850 Motion to the Circuit Court on 05/17/95, which was denied on 11/01/02.

Ponticelli filed a 3.850 Appeal to the Florida Supreme Court on 01/06/03.  On 03/18/05, the Court ordered to consolidate this case with Ponticelliís Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus. 

On appeal, Ponticelli raises the following five issues:  (1) the State violated Brady and Giglio in a number of ways throughout trial, (2) the State suppressed several pieces of evidence regarding the cocaine party that began the night before the homicides, (3) ineffective assistance of counsel during the penalty phase and guilt phase, (4) denial of competent mental health assistance, and (5) inappropriate summary denial of claims raised in his fifth amended 3.850 Motion. 

The Court determined that none of these allegations have merit and Ponticelli failed to establish support for these claims.  On 08/31/06, the Court affirmed the trial courtís denial of Ponticelliís 3.850 Motion.

Ponticelli filed a second 3.850 Motion to the Circuit Court, which was denied on 08/26/03.

Ponticelli filed a 3.850 Appeal to the Florida Supreme Court on 09/12/03, which was denied on 06/09/04. 

Ponticelli filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in the Florida Supreme Court on 10/20/03.  On 03/18/05, the Court ordered to consolidate this case with Ponticelliís 3.850 Appeal.  In his Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, Ponticelli made the following claims:  (1) Floridaís capital sentencing scheme is unconstitutional under Ring, (2) Ponticelliís death sentence was unconstitutional, and (3) the appellate counsel rendered ineffective assistance. 

The Court found that each of the above claims is without merit.  On 08/31/06, the Court denied Ponticelliís Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus.


Death row inmate's trial denied - High court rules out appeal in 1987 slaying

Ocala Star-Banner

September 1, 2006

The Florida Supreme Court denied an Ocala man on death row another trial in a ruling Thursday.

Anthony John Ponticelli, 39, and his lawyers tried appealing his 1988 conviction and death sentence for the November 1987 murders of Nicholas and Ralph Grandinetti.

In the ruling, the state Supreme Court said Ponticelli got a fair shake at trial.

Ponticelli was sentenced to death in 1988, after being convicted of shooting Nicholas and Ralph Grandinetti in November 1987. Assistant State Attorney Sarah Ritterhoff Williams handled the case.

The Grandinetti brothers were found shot in a car behind a Silver Springs Shores home. Ralph Grandinetti died at the scene. Nicholas Grandinetti, who never regained consciousness, died at Shands Hospital in Gainesville 2 weeks later.

The mother of the victims' said Thursday that when anything comes up in the case, she remembers the crime.

"Nicki didn't die right away. He was in a coma at Shands. He was shot up in the temple," said his mother, Rayona Russo, on Thursday. "When he died, he was curled up like a baby."

Ponticelli killed the brothers, stealing about $2,000 and cocaine.

"I don't believe in the death penalty but I'm starting to change my mind. He didn't even say he was sorry," Russo said.

In Ponticelli's appeal he claimed the prosecutors withheld information about cocaine use the night of the murders, didn't inform him of what he viewed as deals with witnesses who testified against him at trial and that the state allowed witnesses to give false testimony regarding the drug use. He also said he had ineffective appellate counsel.

The Supreme Court denied motion for post-conviction relief unanimously.

One justice, Harry Lee Anstead, agreed with the conviction but said in the opinion, he felt Ponticelli should have another penalty phase.

"The State permitted false testimony to be presented on this issue (cocaine) that the State's investigator knew to be false. . . . Nevertheless, the State allowed Keesee (a witness) to testify falsely . . . I agree with the majority that Ponticelli is not entitled to relief from his convictions. I cannot agree, however, that he is not entitled to a new penalty phase when it is so apparent that a completely false picture was presented to the jury of Ponticelli's drug use at the time of the crime," Anstead wrote.


Anthony John Ponticelli



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