Judicial Circuit, Volusia County, Case #86-2822-CC
Sentencing Judge: The Honorable
R. Michael Hutchinson
Attorney, Trial: Ray Cass –
Assistant Public Defender
Attorney, Direct Appeal: Thomas
R. Mott – Private
Attorneys, Collateral Appeals:
Mark Gruber and David Hendry – CCRC-M
Date of Offense:
Date of Sentence: 01/21/88
Circumstances of Offense:
Peter Ventura was convicted and
sentenced to death for the murder of Robert Clemente.
Jerry Wright had taken out a
key-man life insurance policy on Robert Clemente, his employee. Wright
had borrowed money from Jack McDonald and needed to repay the debt. He
asked McDonald to find someone to kill Clemente, and then, Wright and
McDonald would share the money from the insurance policy in repayment of
Wright’s debt to McDonald.
McDonald arranged a meeting between Wright
and Ventura, an acquaintance of McDonald’s, in Chicago. Ventura agreed
to kill Clemente for Wright and went to Volusia County in 1981 to
complete the job.
On 04/15/81, Ventura, pretending
to be a potential customer, contacted Clemente and arranged to meet him
at the Barnett Bank in Deland. He and Clemente drove to the site that
Ventura had previously chosen to murder the victim, and McDonald
After shooting Clemente, Ventura ran to where McDonald
waited, and they drove to Daytona Beach. Ventura then received partial
payment for his work and headed to Atlanta. When he received more
money, Ventura flew to California.
Chicago postal authorities
notified officials in Volusia County about a contract murder involving
McDonald, Wright, and Ventura. McDonald was arrested when he went to
meet Wright. McDonald acted as the state’s key witness during Ventura’s
On 06/25/81, Ventura was arrested in Chicago and indicted on
06/30/81 for First-Degree Murder and Using a Firearm during the
Commission of a Felony. He was bonded out of jail prior to extradition
and did not appear for the extradition hearing on 08/18/81. Ventura
eventually was arrested in Austin, Texas, because a coworker reported
that Ventura had bragged to him about performing a contract murder in
Codefendant: Jerry Wright (Volusia County
Circuit, Case #87-5320)
On 03/06/81, Wright was
convicted of First-Degree Murder and sentenced to Life in prison for his
involvement in the murder of Robert Clemente on 04/15/81.
Codefendant: Jack McDonald
On 06/25/81, Jack McDonald was
arrested for murder. After five months in jail, McDonald was released
because of the lack of evidence against him and due to a speedy trial
rule violation. McDonald agreed to testify against Ventura for the
06/25/81 Ventura was arrested.
06/30/81 Ventura was indicted on the following counts:
Count I: First-Degree
Count II: Using a firearm in
the Commission of a Felony
01/15/88 Ventura was found guilty for each count of the
advisory sentencing, the jury, by an 11 to 1 majority, voted for the
01/21/88 Ventura was sentenced as follows:
Count I: First-Degree
Count II: Using
a firearm in the Commission of a Felony –
30 months, less
629 days for time served
Ventura filed his Direct Appeal in the Florida Supreme Court on
02/19/88. The issues addressed included that the trial court erred in
not investigating Ventura’s complaints about his assigned counsel and in
not allowing Ventura to dismiss his counsel. Ventura further contended
that his death sentence violated the Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth
Amendments of the United States Constitution.
The Florida Supreme Court
did not find errors that warranted reversing the conviction or sentence
and affirmed the conviction and sentence on 04/05/90.
08/27/90, Ventura filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari in the United
States Supreme Court. The petition was denied on 10/29/90.
Ventura filed a 3.850 Motion in the Circuit Court on 02/28/92. The
motion was dismissed on 04/16/92 because Ventura did not provide a basis
for the claims; the claims were procedurally barred, or the claims
should have been raised during the Direct Appeal.
08/19/94, Ventura filed a 3.850 Appeal in the Florida Supreme Court.
The issues addressed included that the trial judge should not have
dismissed his 3.850 Motion and mishandled other related motions. The
3.850 Denial was reversed on 01/11/96 and remanded to the trial court
with instructions to allow Ventura to file an Amended 3.850 Motion.
Ventura filed an Amended 3.850 Motion on 08/19/96. The motion was
denied on 07/28/98.
Ventura filed a 3.850 Appeal in the Florida Supreme Court on 09/02/98.
The issues addressed included that a Brady errorad occurred, counsel was ineffective, new evidence was found, and that
mitigating and aggravating factors were mishandled. The 3.850 Denial
was affirmed on 05/24/01.
03/20/00, Ventura filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in the
Florida Supreme Court. The petition was denied on 05/24/01.
Ventura filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari in the United States
Supreme Court on 11/28/01. The petition was denied on 05/28/02.
Ventura filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in the United States
District Court on 10/04/02. The petition was denied on 07/30/04.
08/27/04, Ventura filed a Habeas Appeal to the United States Court of
Appeals, 11th Circuit. The USCA affirmed the denial of
Ventura’s Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus on 08/12/05.