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Jury selection questioned in Bolin sentencing appeal

By ALISA ULFERTS
Published August 27, 2003

TALLAHASSEE - Oscar Ray Bolin should not be executed because jurors in his murder trial were improperly excused from duty, Bolin's attorney argued Tuesday before the Florida Supreme Court.

Bolin, 41, is sentenced to die for the 1986 murder of Teri Lynn Matthews. But during his automatic appeal before the Supreme Court, attorney Doug Connor argued that several potential jurors who said they might not be fully impartial or had some knowledge of the case should have been excluded from the trial for cause. Instead, they were among the limited number the defense can exclude at its discretion, Connor said.

Also, the judge should have asked for more evidence of another juror's illness before agreeing to replace him with an alternate, Connor said.

But Robert Landry, an attorney representing the state, said there was no reason to exclude, for cause, the potential jurors based on their general answers to questions about the case. And the sick juror's emphysema was well documented before he became ill, so there was no reason for the judge to question it, Landry said.

"He'd been sick and he just couldn't proceed," Landry said.

Justices aren't expected to rule on Tuesday's hearing for several months.

Matthews, 26, was abducted in December 1986 from the Land O'Lakes post office, beaten and stabbed to death. Her body, wrapped in a wet sheet, was found the next day about a mile from Bolin's mobile home.

Bolin's last sentencing, in December 2001, marked the third time the death penalty has been imposed on Bolin for Matthews' murder. He has now been sentenced to death seven times for the murders of Matthews and two Hillsborough County women. The first six convictions and death sentences were overturned by the Florida Supreme Court.

The judge in the last trial, Pasco-Pinellas Circuit Judge Craig C. Villanti, called it "the only penalty that is appropriate."

Matthews' mother, Kathleen Reeves, did not attend Tuesday's hearing but said she was pleased with the third trial and is hopeful the conviction will stick.

"We didn't see any loopholes" in the last trial, Reeves said.

[Last modified August 27, 2003, 02:32:16]


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