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John Bruce VINING





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: November 17, 1987
Date of arrest: September 1, 1989
Date of birth: March 13, 1931
Victim profile: Georgia Caruso
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Orange County, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on April 9, 1990

Florida Supreme Court
Briefs and Opinions


Docket #75915 - John Bruce Vining, Appellant, vs. State of Florida, Appellee. 637 So. 2d 921; April 28, 1994.

opinion initial brief of appellant
answer brief of appellee reply brief of appellant

Docket #SC99-67 - John Bruce Vining, Appellant, vs. State of Florida, Appellee. 827 So. 2d 201; July 3, 2002.

opinion appellant's corrected initial brief
answer brief of appellee appellant's reply brief

DC #929133
DOB:  03/13/31

­­­Ninth Judicial Circuit, Orange County, Case #89-2395
Sentencing Judge: The Honorable Joseph P. Baker
Attorney, Trial: Patricia Cashman – Assistant Public Defender
Attorney, Direct Appeal: Larry B. Henderson – Assistant Public Defender
Attorney, Collateral Appeals:  Terri Backhus – Private

Date of Offense: 11/17/87

Date of Sentence: 04/09/90

Circumstances of Offense:

John Vining was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Georgia Caruso.

In November of 1987, Caruso advertised diamonds for sell.  A man, identifying himself as “George Williams,” but who was actually John Vining, came to Caruso’s fingernail care business on several days in November of 1987 to discuss buying the diamonds.  Joann Ward, Caruso’s employee, was introduced to “George Williams,” and her description of “Williams” matched John Vining.

On 11/17/87, Ward accompanied Caruso to meet Vining at the gem lab to have the jewelry appraised.  Ward said that “Williams” was driving a black Cadillac Fleetwood, which was the same car that Vining’s mother drove.  Ward ran errands while Caruso and Vining were at the gem lab.

Caruso, when they went to have the jewelry appraised, introduced Ellen Zaffis and Kevin Donner, employees of Winter Park Gem Lab to Williams aka Vining.  Zaffis and Donner also gave descriptions of “Williams” that matched Ward’s description of “Williams.”  The diamond jewelry was appraised at $60,000. 

Caruso told Ward that she and “Williams” were going to the bank because he had decided to buy the jewelry.  Ward went back to work alone.  Ward and Zaffis remembered that Caruso was wearing a gold Rolex watch and several rings, including an anniversary ring, a solitaire engagement ring, and 6-carat diamond ring.  None of the jewelry was found with Caruso’s body.

On 12/08/87, land surveyors discovered Caruso’s body in Apopka, FL.  The body was identified as Caruso’s through dental records.  Caruso died from two gunshot wounds: one to the side of the face and the other to the temple.  The black Cadillac belonging to Vining’s mother was found burning shortly after the media announced the discovery of Caruso’s body.

On 05/05/89, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department issued a detainer against John Vining, who was currently in prison in the state of Georgia.  At that time, Vining was serving a sentence for Kidnapping and Aggravated Assault.  On 06/05/89, Vining was indicted for First-Degree Murder and Armed Robbery in the state of Florida.

Additional Information:

Georgia Conviction (Chatham County)

Vining (ID# 240545) was convicted of Aggravated Assault and Kidnapping.  He was sentenced to a 15-year sentence for each offense.

Trial Summary:

09/01/89          Vining was arrested.

06/05/89          Vining was indicted on the following counts:

Count I:           First-Degree Murder (Georgia Caruso)

Count II:          Armed Robbery

02/01/90          Vining was found guilty for each count of the indictment.

03/08/90          Upon advisory sentencing, the jury, by an 11 to 1 majority, voted for the death penalty.

04/09/90          Vining was sentenced as follows:

Count I:           First-Degree Murder (Georgia Caruso) Death

Count II:          Armed Robbery Life

Case Information:

Vining filed his Direct Appeal in the Florida Supreme Court on 04/27/90.  The issues addressed included that the trial court erred in not granting the defendant’s motion to dismiss, allowing hypnotically-refreshed testimony, and restricting questioning by the defense.  Other issues include that the trial court erred by allowing improper prosecutorial argument during the closing and mishandled aggravating and mitigating factors, and also claimed that the death penalty was not constitutional.  The Florida Supreme Court did not find errors that warranted reversing the conviction or sentence and affirmed the conviction and sentence on 04/28/94.  Rehearing was denied on 06/23/94.  A Mandate was issued on 07/25/94.

Vining filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari on 09/21/94 with the United States Supreme Court.  The petition was denied on 11/28/94.

Vining filed a 3.850 Motion on 03/26/96 with the circuit court.  The motion was denied on 11/02/99.

Vining filed a 3.850 Appeal on 12/08/99 with the Florida Supreme Court.  Addressed issues included that a Brady violation had occurred, Vining was denied effective assistance of counsel, and that the death penalty was unconstitutional.  The Florida Supreme Court did not find errors that warranted reversing the 3.850 Denial and affirmed the 3.850 Denial on 07/03/02.  Rehearing denied on 09/19/02.  Mandate issued 10/21/02.

Vining filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus with the Florida Supreme Court on 06/23/03.  The petition was denied on 01/26/04.  Rehearing denied on 04/19/04.

On 07/19/04, Vining filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in the United States District Court, Middle District.  The petition is currently pending.




John Bruce Vining



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