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Tampa man named to handle appeals for death row inmates

By GRAHAM BRINK

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 14, 2001


TAMPA -- Gov. Jeb Bush appointed a Tampa attorney Friday to run an office that handles appeals for death row inmates.

John "Bill" Jennings, a former state prosecutor, will take over the job of Capital Collateral Regional Counsel for the middle region of Florida in the next few weeks.

Jennings will take over for Valrico attorney John Moser III, a longtime prosecutor appointed in 1997 who chose not to reapply. Jennings beat out two other finalists, Sarah Baggett of Jupiter and Kenneth Driggs of Georgia.

In 1997, Capital Collateral Representative was split into three offices, each with its own regional counsel. The middle region, which includes St. Petersburg, Tampa and Orlando, has the most cases, the biggest staff and the largest budget at $3.2-million a year.

Jennings will make about $112,500 a year and oversee an office of lawyers and investigators who handle post-conviction appeals for about 70 indigent death row inmates from the area.

Jennings, 52, spent eight years at the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office and 12 more as a prosecutor in Polk County, where he headed several departments. He left Polk in 1998, and took a job with the Hillsborough Public Defender's Office.

Jennings said he thought his experience as a prosecutor would help him defend death row inmates. "It helps me know how the opposition thinks," he said. "That can only be an advantage."

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