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Serial killer will get new attorney

The agency handling death penalty appeals has to pass off part of its heavy caseload.


© St. Petersburg Times, published July 27, 1999

TAMPA -- Serial killer Bobby Joe Long will get a new attorney, but not because of his repeated and reportedly crude complaints about the state agency that handles appeals for Florida's death row inmates.

Hillsborough Circuit Judge Robert Simms on Monday approved a request to transfer Long's appeals from Florida's Office of Capital Collateral Representative to a private attorney to be named later.

John Moser, director of the agency's Tampa office, said his office originally intended to handle Long's appeal itself, but has been hampered by turnover and difficulty hiring experienced lawyers to handle often complex death penalty appeals.

In recent months, the CCR has faced problems that include money woes, a growing backlog of final execution appeals and complaints of deceit and incompetence from Long and other death row inmates.

The Tampa office of the CCR represents death row inmates convicted in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties, as well as Polk, Orange, Volusia, Brevard, Seminole, Hardee and Osceola counties. The office is authorized to have 15 appeals lawyers and has four openings.

"It's very difficult to obtain lawyers with the right experience to do the work," Moser said. "We have had some staffing shortfalls." Long's case, he added, "was not singled out."

The Tampa office has been carrying 85 cases, and Moser said it referred 16 of them to the state Commission on Capital Cases, which reviews the activity of the CCR and acts as a liaison to the Legislature and circuit courts. He said the commission will notify local courts that the cases are up for reassignment to private attorneys on a state registry.

In addition to the appeals for Long, convicted of murdering a string of Tampa prostitutes and exotic dancers in the 1980s, Moser's office is removing itself from the appeals for Oba Chandler, convicted of murdering an Ohio tourist and her two teenage daughters in 1989 and dumping their bodies in Tampa Bay.

Moser said his office tried to refer cases that were not far along in the death penalty process. In Long's case, he said, attorneys are still gathering records for the appeal.

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