Convict pins hopes on new alibi

Published March 13, 2007

DADE CITY - A former cocaine addict testified Monday that she was with Gregory Keith Capehart the night a woman was strangled in her bed in 1988.

There's no way, Angela Carr said, that Capehart could have murdered Marlene Reaves.

Capehart, 39, is trying to win a new trial in the long-ago homicide. Originally convicted in 1989 and given the death penalty, he already has been granted a new sentencing phase.

Capehart's new attorney argued Monday that he is entitled to a whole new trial because his lawyer during the trial made fatal mistakes.

"It's not harmless error, it's ineffective assistance," said Capehart's new attorney, Daniel Hernandez, referring to the statute that allows defendants to appeal on grounds their lawyer did an inadequate job.

Capehart was represented at trial by A.J. Ivie, who suffered a stroke in 2003 and has been unable to recall the details of his past cases. Capehart is one of many clients who have since come forward with complaints about Ivie's representation.

Capehart took the stand Monday and said he told Ivie about his alibi witness, but Ivie never called her to testify.

"He said he was going to take care of it," Capehart said.

Next, Carr testified that she had been hanging out with Capehart at a rooming house Feb. 5, 1988, the night someone broke into 62-year-old Reaves' Dade City apartment, raped her and strangled her in a would-be robbery.

She remembered her shock at hearing Capehart had been arrested days after the murder.

"I was like, 'How could they do that? He was here with me,' " Carr said.

Under cross-examination, Carr admitted she was using cocaine that day. She said she didn't come forward immediately with her story because she was hooked on the drug and was in and out of jail. It wasn't until years later that she wrote a letter to Capehart, offering the alibi.

Hernandez said Ivie made other crucial errors:

-The two state witnesses who put Capehart at the scene of the crime were both felons, and Ivie never told the jury.

-Ivie as much as conceded Capehart's guilt in a secondary crime - a robbery in Reaves' neighborhood near the time she died. But Capehart was not charged with the robbery, and by admitting his guilt in it, that further bolstered the claim that he was at the crime scene.

"There can be no suggestion that this was strategy on the part of Mr. Ivie," Hernandez said.

Assistant State Attorney Manny Garcia countered that Carr, because of her past drug problems and long delay in coming forward, is not a credible witness. And he said Capehart's new claim that he was with Carr contradicts what he told investigators at the time - that he was at Reaves' home the night she died and saw another man strangle her.

But most importantly, Garcia said, the defense failed to prove that such details would have yielded a different verdict.

Circuit Judge Linda Babb said she would rule within a few days.

Molly Moorhead can be reached at (352) 521-6521 or moorhead@sptimes.com.