Circuit judge denies appeal of convictions and death sentence for Deltona Xbox mass murderer
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DAYTONA BEACH -- Mass murderer Jerone Hunter is not getting off Florida's death row anytime soon, if ever, after a circuit judge's ruling Wednesday that he failed to prove ineffective assistance of counsel at his capital murder trial six years ago.
Ineffective assistance of counsel is a legal maneuver used by condemned killers to try to show their death sentences should be overturned because on the basis their lawyer did not properly represent their legal interests. It's one of the earlier legal options exercised in appeals and rarely works because the defendant's appelate attorney has to show his trial attorney erred in the handling of his case, a difficult threshold to meet because the role a judge plays in ensuring proper court protocol and legal representation.
In all, Hunter made eight separate claims as to why his death sentences should be set aside, all rejected by Circuit Judge William Parsons, who presided over the capital murder trial of Hunter and three co-defendants.
Hunter and ringleader Troy Victorino were the main principals, along with two others, Michael Salas and Robert Cannon, in a literal bloodbath in a Telford Lane home on Aug. 6, 2004, where six defenseless people -- Erin Belanger, 22; Francisco "Flaco" Ayo-Roman, 30; Roberto "Tito" Gonzalez, 28; Michelle Nathan, 19; Anthony Vega, 34, and Jonathan Gleason, 17 -- were tortured and murdered with aluminum bats and knives as lethal weapons.
Victorino and Hunter were squatters in Deltona home owned by Belanger's grandparents while they were away and she had them evicted by deputies. Victorino was incensed that an Xbox game system was not returned and that was a catalyst for bloody revenge.
Here is a synopsis of what happened as presented by prosecutors during the high-profile murder cases: Gleason was on the recliner when the killers marched inside the home and was fatally stabbed in the neck by Hunter. Victorino bludgeoned Vega with a bat until he was lifeless. Hunter fatally bashed Gonzalez's head in with a bat and stabbed him multiple times in the chest and torso. After Belanger was beaten to death, Troy Victorino sexually Belanger's body after beating her to death. Victorino then bludgeoned Ayo-Roman and stabbed him in the throat in the master bedroom near his girlfriend, Nathan, who was hiding in the closet until Hunter found her, then bludgeoned and stabbed her to death. Belanger's dachshund, was intentionally stomped to death.
Parsons upheld the jury's death penalty recommendation for Hunter and Victorino, describing the murders as "conscienceless" and "unnecessarily torturous." The judge told each of the condemned men in handing down their death sentences: "You have not only forfeited your right to live among us, you have forfeited your right to live at all."
Salas, then 26, and Cannon, then 25, were sentenced to life in prison for their roles in the murders. Cannon had avoided trial altogether and possible state execution by instead pleading straight up to the murders in exchange for life in prison..
Hunter's post-conviction relief claims were rejected by Parsons who wrote in part: "In reviewing a claim that counsel's representation was ineffective based on a failure to investigate or present mitigating evidence, the court requires the defendant to demonstrate that the deficient performance deprived the defendant of a reliable penalty phase proceeding.
Parson's determined that Hunter failed to show that his claims rose to those legal levels.
Victorino had appealed on similar grounds, but Persons, too, rejected his claims earlier this month. He has since appealed to the judge to reconsider the denial.
FAST FACTS: The Killers
TROY VICTORINO DC Number: 898405 Race: HISPANIC Sex: MALE Hair Color: BLACK Eye Color: BROWN Height: 6'07'' Weight: 304 lbs. Birth Date: 12/11/1976 Initial Receipt Date: 09/22/2006 Current Facility: UNION C.I. Current Custody: MAXIMUM Current Release Date: DEATH SENTENCE
JERONE HUNTER DC Number: V26165 Race: BLACK Sex: MALE Hair Color: BLACK Eye Color: BROWN Height: 5'05'' Weight: 138 lbs. Birth Date: 05/31/1986 Initial Receipt Date: 09/22/2006 Current Facility: FLORIDA STATE PRISON Current Custody: MAXIMUM Current Release Date: DEATH SENTENCE
MICHAEL SALAS DC Number: C00014 Race: HISPANIC Sex: MALE Hair Color: BLACK Eye Color: BROWN Height: 5'08'' Weight: 128 lbs. Birth Date: 12/12/1985 Initial Receipt Date: 08/04/2006 Current Facility: HARDEE C.I. Current Custody: CLOSE Current Release Date: SENTENCED TO LIFE
ROBERT CANNON DC Number: C00095 Race: WHITE Sex: MALE Hair Color: BROWN Eye Color: BROWN Height: 5'11'' Weight: 181 lbs. Birth Date: 02/02/1986 Initial Receipt Date: 09/01/2006 Current Facility: MAYO C.I. ANNEX Current Custody: CLOSE Current Release Date: SENTENCED TO LIFE
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Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet newspaper serving the Daytona Beach-New Smyrna Beach / Sanford-Orlando metropolitan region via HeadlineSurfer.com. Florida's first around-the-clock newspaper was launched April 7, 2008, in New Smyrna Beach, initially as NSBNews.net and VolusiaNews.net. Headline Surfer is a registered trademark of NSB News LLC. Headline Surfer® Publisher Henry Frederick, is recognized as one of Florida's top award-winning cops & courts reporters, who has received more awards for such coverage than any other reporter working in Central Florida. He's the top journalist in the Florida Press Club two years running with seven journalism awards for 15 breaking news and investigative stories, three blogs and top internet site. He's the only reporter to win awards for coverage of the Trayvon Martin slaying as well as the subsequent George Zimmerman murder trial acquittal in Sanford. He's also won state, regional and national journalism awards for his coverage of cops and courts fear 8 1/2 years at the Daytona Beach News-Journal, where he witnessed and reported on the execution of serial killer Aileen Wuornos and covered the civil trial brought by NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt's widow to keep his autopsy files sealed. Before that before he covered cops & courts for Gannett Suburban Newspapers / The Journal News in Westchester and Rockland counties in New York, where he won a highly-coveted Associated Press Award for breaking news. Before launching the 24/7 internet newspaper in 2008, he was an award-winning city editor for the Taunton Daily Gazette, in his native Massachusetts for two years, winning a national investigative award on municipal corruption. The first of Frederick's three books, for which he has secured publishing rights, is called "Creepy Ass Cracker" (840 pages, Xlibris), which will hit bookstores in September. His second book, "Wrestling ReWind," is expected to be published in January 2015. The third book is not yet titled.
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