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 editor/publisher of Headline Surfer, Florida's first 24/7 Internet newspaper, launched April 7, 2008 in New Smyrna Beach, and accessed via HeadlineSurfer.com, NSBNews.net & VolusiaNews.net. Headline Surfer is a registered trademark of NSB News LLC. Frederick was the top winner in the 2012 Florida Press Club contest: 1st place for Blog Writing & 3rd place each for General News Writing, Public Safety Reporting & Best Online Presence (with social media). He's received 18 major journalism awards as a breaking news, investigative reporter & city editor for daily newspapers in Florida, Massachusetts, New York & Connecticut since the mid-1980s.
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