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Death row inmate granted a new trial

By Times staff writers

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 16, 2000

TAMPA -- The Florida Supreme Court granted a new trial Thursday to a death row inmate from Hillsborough County, saying a detective's personal opinion about the man's guilt might have prejudiced the jury.

Joaquin Jose Martinez, 29, was found guilty in 1997 of killing a couple in their rented house in Clair Mel two years earlier.

When lead state prosecutor Nick Cox asked a detective at trial whether he thought Martinez was guilty, the detective replied, "There was no doubt that he did it." In his closing argument, Cox repeated the detective's opinion.

"We find that the prejudice flowing from the erroneous admission of this testimony was compounded by the state's closing argument," the Supreme Court said.

It is expected that Martinez will be held in jail to await his new trial.

Deputies cleared in fatal shooting of suspect

TAMPA -- Hillsborough State Attorney Harry Lee Coe has cleared the deputies involved in the May 17 fatal shooting of a robbery suspect.

Coe called the actions of sheriff's deputies Adolfo Luis, Craig Hinson and James Stuart justified. After deputies cornered the suspect, Harry Green, 43, in the Lakeside Villas apartment complex where he lived, Green jumped from his car and pointed a gun at the deputies, witnesses said.

The deputies said they yelled for him to drop the gun, but Green shot Luis in the face. The deputies returned fire, killing Green, who was wanted for an armed robbery at a JCPenney store in the Citrus Park Town Center.

Despite rains, Tampa sticks to water limits

TAMPA -- Recent rains have helped ease Tampa's water crisis, said Marjorie Guillory, Tampa's deputy water director, but it will take four or five downpours before the city should consider lifting its once-a-week lawn watering rules.

"If we could see the rainy season kicking in like a normal rainy season and had another week of rain, we'd be comfortable," she said.

The gauge most closely watched is the level of the reservoir behind the Hillsborough River dam, which holds the city's water reserves. The level has climbed 10 inches in the last two days but needs to go up about 3 feet more to reach the top of the dam, Guillory said. Sporadic rains also helped reduce demand throughout the week, she said.

Accused officer fired for behavior problems, lying

ST. PETERSBURG -- Three times in three years, police Officer Owen Dietz has been accused of having inappropriate sexual relationships with women he met on the job.

This time, it cost him his job.

Dietz, a St. Petersburg patrol officer, was fired Thursday for having a 5- to 6-month sexual relationship with a woman whose husband Dietz arrested on a charge of beating her, police officials said.

The woman's husband complained to internal affairs investigators. Dietz denied the relationship, but cell phone records from early 1999 showed that he was lying, police officials said. He was fired for improper conduct and lying to investigators.

In 1998, Dietz was suspended for 10 days after a woman said she had a sexual relationship with Dietz, but investigators couldn't prove it. Dietz had been sent to a brawl at a motel, where the woman told him $300 in prescription pills had been stolen. Dietz didn't file a report but instead drove the woman home, police said.

In 1999, Dietz was one of three officers accused of having sex with a prostitute named Gina Felosi. Investigators were unable to prove the accusation.

Hungry Fisherman fire is ruled arson

INDIAN SHORES -- Investigators have concluded arson caused last week's fire at the Hungry Fisherman restaurant. The blaze in the landmark restaurant at 19915 Gulf Blvd. was reported June 9 at 2:16 a.m. No one was injured. Evidence at the scene showed the fire was intentionally set, Indian Rocks Fire District officials said Thursday. The fire caused about $25,000 in damage, limited mostly to a second-story office and storage area. The downstairs dining areas and kitchen had minor smoke and water damage. The waterfront restaurant opened 31 years ago.

Tipper Gore visits bay area youth center

TAMPA -- Tipper Gore toured a youth center in Tampa Heights on Thursday as part of a campaign swing through Central Florida for her husband, Vice President Al Gore.

Mrs. Gore shook hands with the staff of the Salesian Youth Center, said hello to the students and quizzed parents about how the center made a difference in their children's lives.

The youth center on Ola Avenue is a joint project between the Salesian sisters who run Villa Madonna School and the Boys and Girls Club. About 250 children go to the center every day during the summer.

The center learned June 8 that Mrs. Gore was thinking of stopping by as part of her husband's presidential campaign and was looking for an "education venue," said campaign consultant Karl Koch.

Commissioners give traffic circles another spin

CLEARWATER -- The City Commission voted Thursday to install an "intersection reconfiguration feature" on north Clearwater Beach. Or at least that's how Commissioner Ed Hooper urged his colleagues to describe the project.

Anything to avoid using the "r" word, Hooper said jokingly. That's "r" as in"roundabout."

As in Clearwater Beach's controversial, congested roundabout that opened at the entranceway to the island in December. As in the roundabout that has been the site of 309 fender-benders to date.

But despite all that, on Thursday the City Commission approved a roundabout once again.

City engineers say the new roundabout -- to be constructed at Acacia Street and Mandalay Avenue -- will have numerous benefits.

It is designed to slow down traffic on Mandalay and provide better brick crosswalks for pedestrians, said City Engineer Mike Quillen.

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