An elderly inmate on death row for murdering a teenager in 1985 claims his conviction should be overturned because prosecutors failed to tell the jury about child sex abuse charges against their key witness.
James Dailey, 73, is due to be executed for the brutal murder of 14-year-old Shelly Boggio but a series of doubts have already been raised over his conviction, including his co-defendant saying he acted alone.
In Dailey’s latest legal challenge, filed Tuesday night, he alleges that the prosecutor had committed ‘a fraud on the court’ by withholding key information about the star witness from the jury.
Jack Pearcy, now 64, left, and James Daily, now 73, right, were convicted of first degree murder in separate trials after Shelly Boggio was found dead off Indian Rocks Beach
Shelly Boggio was found stabbed and drowned in the water off Indian Rocks Beach more than 30 years ago. Pearcy and Daily were both convicted of first degree murder in separate trials
Dailey’s defense attorneys allege that the star witness, Paul Skalnik, misrepresented his history of criminal charges during his testimony by failing to disclose that he had been charged with lewd and lascivious assault on a child under 14 in 1982.
The charge was later dropped as part of a plea bargain.
This had left the jury with a ‘grossly distorted (diminished) understanding of Skalnik’s criminal history,’ they said.
Skalnik claimed Dailey confessed to the murder in jail giving grisly details of the attack.
Dailey’s defense attorney, Josh Dubin, told ABC News that by failing to reveal to the jury that the prosecution’s star witness had been charged with the sexual assault of a minor a few years earlier, former Pinellas County Prosecutor Robert Heyman and his co-counsel violated a defendant’s fair trial rights.
He said the prosecutor ‘absolutely has an ethical, professional, and legal responsibility not to mislead that jury.’
Dubin added that ‘failure to do so means a fraud on the court, means that this conviction cannot stand.’
James Dailey, 73, pictured at the time of his arrest, was originally scheduled to be executed on November 7 last year but a federal court gave defense lawyers more time to make their case after his co-defendant, Jack Pearcy, 64, said he was solely responsible for the death
Dailey denied in an interview with ABC News that he had ever had a conversation with Skalnik, much less confessed to a known jailhouse snitch.
He said: ‘I never said a word to him in my life, and I had to sit there in the courtroom and listen to him just say I confessed all these horrible things to him, and I never said anything to him.’
In the cross examination during his testimony in the Dailey trial, Skalnik was asked about his previous criminal record. ‘Sir,’ Dailey’s defense attorney asked Skalnik, ‘how bad were your charges?’ ‘They were grand theft, counselor, not murder, not rape, no physical violence in my life,’ Skalnik replied.
In Florida, the ‘lewd and lascivious assault on a child under 14’ is considered physical violence. In the motion, Dubin argues that Skalnik had perjured himself in that statement alone, and that the prosecution knew he had perjured himself but failed to correct the record.
Jack Pearcy, pictured in 1987, wrote in December last year: ‘James Dailey had nothing to do with the murder of Shelly Boggio. I committed the crime alone.’
Dailey had been due to be executed in November but a federal court gave defense lawyers more time to make their case after his co-defendant, Jack Pearcy, 64, said he was solely responsible for the death.
That stay of execution is now expired, The Tampa Bay Times reports.
Tragic Shelly was found stabbed and drowned in the water off Indian Rocks Beach more than 30 years ago. Pearcy and Daily were both convicted of first degree murder in separate trials.
Pearcy is serving a life sentence while Dailey is on death row after the jury declined to recommend a death sentence in Pearcy’s case.
Pearcy signed a similar statement in 2017 admitting his guilt but then refused to testify at an evidentiary hearing and Dailey’s conviction was upheld.
‘He is ready to come into court and come clean,’ said Joshua Dubin, one of Dailey’s lawyers said in December.
Authorities say Dailey and two other men met Boggio and her twin sister when the girls were hitchhiking near St. Petersburg. Boggio’s body was later found floating near a fishing area.
Pearcy originally told investigators that Dailey stabbed Boggio and held her down in the water.
He told police the night he was arrested: ‘I just want you to know that I got out of the car and tried to stop Jimmy D. from stabbing her, but when I saw it, I puked all over the place.’
But on December 30 last year he wrote: ‘James Dailey had nothing to do with the murder of Shelly Boggio. I committed the crime alone.’
Dailey’s lawyers maintain he is innocent and say he was convicted on circumstantial evidence and jailhouse informants.
Dailey himself told the state’s parole commission in 2015: ‘I am innocent. Jack Pearcy killed that girl, but I have no way to prove that.’
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the death warrant in September and has maintained since then that Dailey is guilty.
‘We’re praying at some point someone is going to listen,’ attorney Dubin said. ‘The filing that we made just corroborates what we’ve been saying for so long.’
The victim’s cousin, Andrea Boggio, told Fox 13: ‘It was the two of them. This is just another desperate plea.’