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Condemned man asks for death

The death row inmate says he wants his appeal to the governor to help highlight his legal fight.

By CHRIS TISCH, Times Staff Writer
Published June 17, 2005

A death row inmate condemned for a murder in Clearwater 23 years ago has asked Gov. Jeb Bush to sign his death warrant.

But Milo Rose isn't ready to die. Instead, he hopes the request prompts renewed scrutiny of his case.

Rose, 55, sent a handwritten letter to Bush this week proclaiming his innocence, accusing prosecutors of withholding evidence and suggesting his attorneys have failed him.

"I do know from experience that the legal system is not designed to correct itself," Rose writes. "I also know from experience that it won't until it is placed under scrutiny. You signing my death warrant will assure the desired scrutiny takes place."

A Bush spokesman said Rose's letter will have no effect unless he gives up all appeals. It was unclear Thursday if Rose plans to do that. His most recent attorney, Bjorn Brunvand, could not be reached for comment.

"Signing death warrants is something the governor takes very seriously," said spokesman Jacob DePietre. "They don't even come to him until they've gone through the entire appeals process."

Rose was convicted in the Oct. 18, 1982, murder of Robert "Butch" Richardson, 30, who was the son of Rose's then-girlfriend. The killing occurred after Rose and Richardson left a downtown Clearwater bar.

Richardson fell down drunk and apparently couldn't get up. Rose slammed a 35-pound concrete block into Richardson's head several times, telling him to get up. Several witnesses saw the attack. Rose later admitted to friends that he killed Richardson. Police also found blood on his clothes.

Gov. Bob Martinez signed a death warrant for Rose in 1987, but Rose won a delay. His case has been tied up in appeals ever since. He is in the top 50 in seniority of the 369 people on death row.

The prosecutor, defense attorney and judge in Rose's 1983 trial have since risen to prominence in Pinellas legal circles.

The prosecutor was Bruce Bartlett, now the chief prosecutor under State Attorney Bernie McCabe.

The defense attorney was Darryl Rouson, who today is president of the NAACP in St. Petersburg.

The judge was Susan Schaeffer, who later became the circuit's chief judge. This was her first death penalty case as a judge.

Rose had fired four lawyers before Rouson was court-appointed to represent him. During the trial, Rose pulled a number of stunts.

As a police detective testified, Rose stood up and yelled: "I feel the court is in coercion. I'm being railroaded."

Rose then clutched his chest, collapsed to his knees, rolled under a table and claimed to be suffering a heart attack. He put his hand over the right side of his chest - the opposite of his heart.

The trial was stopped for three hours as Rose was taken to the hospital, checked by a doctor (the same doctor who had pronounced Richardson dead) and cleared as healthy.

Rose also asked Schaeffer if he could dismiss Rouson as his attorney, then asked Schaeffer to remove herself as the trial judge.

The jury convicted Rose after several hours of deliberation, then recommended 9-3 that Rose be executed.

[Last modified June 17, 2005, 00:34:18]


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