Judicial Circuit, Seminole County Case# 78-41 CFA
Resentencing Judge: The Honorable S. Joseph Davis, Jr.
Arthur Kutsche – Assistant Public Defender
Appeal: Joan H. Bickerstaff – Private
Collateral Appeals: Robert T. Strain & Carol Rodriguez – CCRC-M
Date of Offense:
Robert Preston, robbed and killed a woman by stabbing her to death in
Seminole County in 1978.
On the afternoon
of 01/09/78, the nude and mutilated body of Earline Walker was
discovered in an open field in Seminole County by police. Multiple stab
wounds and lacerations on the body were so severe that they resulted in
Walker had been
employed as a clerk at a convenience store. An officer of the Altamonte
Springs Police Department on routine patrol discovered her missing from
the store at approximately 3:30 a.m. He also discovered that $574.41
was missing from the store.
was arrested the following day on an unrelated charge. While he was in
custody, a deputy recovered a pubic hair from Preston’s belt buckle.
The day after the arrest, police searched the home of Preston’s mother
with her consent. The defendant also lived there. In his bedroom, they
found a jacket belonging to Preston and several detached food stamp
An analysis confirmed the coupons had been used at the
convenience store to purchase items several days before the murder.
Blood samples from Walker and Preston were compared with blood stains
found on Preston’s jacket. The stains were of the same blood type and
enzyme group as those of the victim. Analysis revealed that the hair
recovered from Preston’s belt and another discovered on his jacket could
have originated from the victim.
In 1980, Preston
was sentenced to six years imprisonment after being convicted of
throwing a deadly missile into an occupied vehicle. The offense
occurred on 01/05/78, four days prior to the murder. In 1989, Preston
obtained an order on motion for postconviction relief, which vacated the
conviction. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed the order in
was acquitted on one count of felony murder committed during the course
of a sexual battery, and one count of sexual battery. Sentence was
withheld on counts II and III of the indictment.
06/9/81 Indicted as follows:
I: Premeditated Murder – Guilty
II: Felony Murder Committed During the
Course of a Robbery – Guilty
III: Felony Murder Committed During the Course of a
Kidnapping – Guilty
Count IV: Robbery – Guilty
Count V: Kidnapping – Guilty
06/10/81 Jury returned guilty verdicts on all counts of the
indictment and recommended death by a vote of
11/06/81 Sentenced as follows:
I: Premeditated murder – Death
Count IV: Robbery – 15 years imprisonment
Count V: Kidnapping – Life imprisonment
04/19/91 Jury recommended death by a vote of
05/08/91 Defendant was resentenced to death
conviction and sentence were affirmed by the Florida Supreme Court on
Direct Appeal in 1984.
signed Preston’s first death warrant in October 1985, prompting the
defendant to file a 3.850 Motion with the trial court in 1985. The
court granted a stay of execution the same day the motion was filed and
denied the motion in 1987. On appeal, the Florida Supreme Court in May
1988 affirmed the trial court’s ruling.
Martinez signed Preston’s second death warrant in August 1988. The
defendant responded by filing an application for a stay of execution
with the United States Supreme Court and by petitioning the Florida
Supreme Court for a Writ of Habeas Corpus.
The petition was denied
without prejudice to raise the same issues by 3.850 motion.
The following month, the United States Supreme Court stayed the
execution and the Florida Supreme Court denied the habeas petition. The
United States Supreme Court denied the Certiorari in 1989.
A third death
warrant was signed by Governor Martinez in March 1989. The following
month Preston filed his second habeas petition with the Florida Supreme
Court. The court granted a stay of execution in April 1989 and
dismissed the case without prejudice in May.
Martinez signed Preston’s fourth death warrant in March 1990, prompting
Preston to file his second 3.850 motion with the trial court. The court
denied the motion. Preston appealed the trial court’s ruling and asked
the Florida Supreme Court for a stay of execution. The Court granted
the stay. In his appeal, Preston cited the United States Supreme
Court’s decision in Johnson v. Mississippi as reason to vacate
his death sentence. In Johnson, the court vacated the
defendant’s death sentence because it had been predicated on a prior
violent felony conviction that was overturned. Accordingly, Preston
argued that his death sentence should be reconsidered after the trial
court overturned Preston’s unrelated conviction in 1980 of throwing a
deadly missile into an occupied vehicle. The high court agreed, and
vacated the sentence and remanded for resentencing.
The trial court
resentenced Preston to death in 1991. The Florida Supreme Court
affirmed the sentence in 1992. The United States Supreme Court denied
the Certiorari in 1993.
filed his third 3.850 Motion to the Circuit Court on 05/23/94. An
Amended Motion was filed on 02/28/00. The Motion was denied on
Preston filed a 3.850 Appeal to the Florida Supreme Court. The Appeal
is currently pending.
Preston filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus to the Florida
Supreme Court, which is also pending.