First Judicial Circuit, Walton
County, Case #90-0429
Sentencing Judge: The Honorable
Attorneys, Trial: William B.
Bishop & James W. Tongue – Assistant Public Defenders
Attorney, Direct Appeal: Paula
S. Saunders – Assistant Public Defender
Attorney, Collateral Appeals:
Mark Olive, Esq. - Registry
Date of Offense: 10/10/90
Date of Sentence: 09/10/92
Circumstances of Offense:
Gary Whitton was convicted and sentenced to death for the 10/10/90
murder of James Mauldin.
Gary Whitton met James Mauldin in March of 1989 at a halfway house in
Pensacola where the two men were receiving alcohol treatment. After
leaving the halfway house, Whitton and Mauldin would see each other
occasionally at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
10/07/90, Mauldin spent the night at Whitton’s home after showing up
intoxicated. On 10/08/90, the two men drove to Destin so Mauldin could
withdraw money from his bank. The bank was closed, so the men returned
the following day.
Mauldin closed his account after he was told by the
bank teller that he could not withdraw money without his passbook, which
he did not have. Whitton assisted Mauldin with filling out the forms
required for closing his account because Mauldin was too intoxicated to
do so himself. Mauldin left the bank with $1,135.88 in cash.
then checked into a hotel in Destin. Whitton filled out the hotel
forms, giving a false license plate number. The hotel clerk noticed the
discrepancy in the license plate numbers and recorded the correct
information on the hotel forms. After checking in, Whitton left the
hotel at approximately 12:00 p.m., and he claimed he did not return to
the hotel again.
During the investigation, Whitton told officers that he did not return
to the hotel the night of the murder. Whitton later told the officers
that he did return for a few minutes, but that Mauldin was already dead
when he arrived. The hotel clerk said that he saw Whitton’s car arrive
at approximately 10:30 p.m. and leave again at approximately 12:30 a.m.
The same hotel clerk found Mauldin’s body the next day.
Mauldin’s body was found with numerous injuries, including a fractured
skull and stab wounds to the shoulder, cheek, neck, scalp, back and
heart. Tests indicated that he had a 0.34 blood alcohol level at the
time of his death and, according to police records, Mauldin had no money
on him besides some spare change.
Police brought Whitton to the station for questioning on 10/11/90, after
being alerted by the hotel clerk about the false information given by
Whitton on the hotel forms. A search of Whitton’s home revealed a pair
of boots that were stained with blood that matched Mauldin’s
blood-type. The police then searched Whitton’s car where they found
bloodstains that also matched Mauldin’s blood type.
While in jail awaiting trial, Whitton confessed to an inmate (and was
overheard by a second inmate) that he returned to the hotel to steal
Mauldin’s money and killed him because he was afraid that Mauldin would
have testified against him in a parole violation hearing as a result of
the robbery. Both inmates gave statements attesting to this
12/03/90 The defendant was indicted on the following charges:
Count I: First-Degree
Count II: Robbery
08/04/92 The jury found the defendant guilty as charged.
advisory sentencing, the jury, by a 12 to 0 majority, voted for the
defendant was sentenced as follows:
Count I: First-Degree
Murder - Death
Count II: Robbery - 9 Years
09/28/92, Whitton filed a Direct Appeal in the Florida Supreme Court.
In that appeal, Whitton argued that the trial court erred in denying his
motion for mistrial after the prosecutor commented on his post-arrest
silence during closing argument. Whitton also argued the consideration
and application of the heinous, atrocious or cruel aggravating factor
and the avoiding arrest aggravating factor.
On 12/01/92, the Florida
Supreme Court affirmed Walton’s conviction and sentence of death.
05/15/95, Whitton filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari in the United
States Supreme Court that was subsequently denied on 10/02/95.
03/24/97, the Whitton filed a 3.850 Motion in the State Circuit Court
that is currently pending.