Convicted murderer sentenced to death

OKEECHOBEE — On Tuesday, July 24, merely 32 minutes after the jury instructions for deliberation were read, a 12-person Okeechobee County jury unanimously recommended a sentence of death to a Maine man who was imprisoned at Okeechobee Correctional Institution (OCI) for the premeditated murder of his cell mate.

Michael Lawrence Woodbury, 42, of Windham, pleaded guilty on May 21 to the Sept. 22, 2017, capital felony of first degree premeditated murder of his cell mate, Antoneeze Haynes. According to the report, Woodbury struck Haynes repeatedly with a padlock.

Michael Lawrence Woodbury

Woodbury is set for a Spencer hearing to present information not presented at trial to the judge at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 13. The Spencer hearing, which takes its name from the 1993 case of Spencer vs. Florida, is held so defendants facing the death penalty have the opportunity to persuade the court against it.

“I know that we took a lot of your time and focus away from other things you would probably rather be doing or should be doing,” 19th Judicial Circuit St. Lucie County Circuit Judge Sherwood Bauer told the jurors. “I will tell you that over the course of hundreds and hundreds of jury trials that I’ve presided over as a judge and the 50 or so as a lawyer, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a jury pay as much attention as much as you all did, to be honest with you. You all had to focus on a lot, and I appreciate that.”

The penalty phase proceedings began Monday, July 23, in Courtroom C of the Okeechobee County Judicial Center. Woodbury, who represented himself, was accompanied with his standby counsel Stanley Glenn and Shane Manship. Prosecuting on behalf of the State of Florida from the 19th Judicial Circuit were Assistant State Attorneys Ashley Albright and Don Richardson.

Judge Bauer later told the jury, “While I find it very unusual, given such an important case, to have someone who chose to represent themselves, it’s certainly a constitutional right and I respect Mr. Woodbury’s choice to represent himself in the case if that’s what he feels was in his best interest. He made that choice, he confirmed it on multiple occasions but that made it unusual; it made it very difficult to tell how much time the case was going to take.”

In his opening statement Mr. Richardson told a story that preceded the murder of Haynes.

It was of an 18-year-old Woodbury who was arrested for armed robbery, and after his release, attempted to commit additional robberies. One of those was an attempted robbery of a card shop in Zephyrhills that reportedly left Woodbury empty-handed.

Another was when Woodbury reportedly walked into a bank, pulled up his shirt, flashed a handgun to the teller and was given approximately $4,000 in cash. The third robbery attempt came after Woodbury had been sentenced to 10 years for the previous two. At the age of 31, on the morning of July 2, 2007, just 59 days after his release from a Maine prison – Woodbury shot and killed three people at the Army Barracks store in Conway, N.H.

“Right after the murder of Haynes, the defendant gave a video-recorded statement to a member of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. We are going to play portions of that statement that flatly contradict what this defendant told you during the trial. After you are presented with all of this evidence, we are going to ask you give the legally justified verdict and sentence of this case, and that is death.”

Woodbury was given three life sentences without going to trial for the murders.

Woodbury reportedly claimed credit for manipulating New Hampshire authorities into shipping him to Florida in 2009, stating that New Hampshire was “too afraid” to incarcerate him in its prison population and did not want him in its “protective custody palace.”

Woodbury also claimed to be familiar with Florida’s prison system from his time served for a bank robbery charge from 1996 to 2002.

In arguing for the death penalty, the state presented four aggravating circumstances in the most recent murder:

1) The capital felony was committed by a person previously convicted of a felony and under sentence of imprisonment or placed on community control or on felony probation;
2) The defendant was previously convicted of another capital felony or of a felony involving the use of or threat of violence to the person;
3) The capital felony was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel and;
4) The capital felony was a homicide and was committed in a cold, calculated and premeditated manner without any pretense of moral or legal justification.

Woodbury told the jury that his intent was not to kill Haynes. “There was never a point where I thought ‘I want to kill this dude’.” He asked the jury, “What can I do? What can I do to make up for it? Tell me. A needle full of poison, that gonna fix it? Because if so, give it to me.” Woodbury said that Haynes didn’t deserve the kind of death he received by his hands and then referenced a statement by OCI Major Frank Gatto about the number of prisoners per OCI staff saying, “Like the major said, when you walk through that door, you are on your own.”

Woodbury then stated that after the altercation that led to Haynes’ death, he gave a statement to authorities. “That whole thing was, just, a bad thing and I definitely feel bad about it. I felt so bad about it that I gave a bad confession. He (Mr. Albright) came in to see me, like two hours afterward, and I felt like I wanted the death penalty because after I killed them dudes up north I swore to God, to Jesus, that I would never kill anybody ever again, under no circumstances. When they came and told me Mr. Haynes had died, I was like, ‘Wow’. I said certain things to Mr. Albright to get him to charge me with the death penalty, I did that. Two days later, I wrote him a letter and told him the truth. I told him that I already told three officers that testified, that Mr. Haynes had actually in fact tried to rape me. Ya know, that’s not a subject a man wants to even talk about,” Woodbury stated.

“I don’t think you should give me a needle full of poison,” Woodbury told the jury. “For what, what’s that going to solve? You think that’s going to solve something, anybody? It’s not. The last 22 years, I’ve been out exactly 60 days, that’s it. I’m in prison for the rest of my life, I have no chance of ever getting out. Every time I’m outside of the dorm, it’s secure movement. I have to have a pass to go somewhere and I have to be escorted. Ya know, it’s pointless to kill me but if that will make you feel better, go on and do it.”

The state brought forth witnesses to testify against Woodbury stemming from his first robbery that involved a Windham, Maine, convenience store clerk, who testified: “A guy burst through the door with a red ski mask and told us to get on the floor. He then took a Burger King bag and flung it at me and told me to give him the money.” The witness said the cash was handed directly to Woodbury, who was able to get away with approximately $300 during that incident. Mr. Richardson asked the witness and victim, “Were you in fear of your life?” to which the individual replied, “Oh, definitely!” A detective with the Windham Police Department collected the bag and sent it to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for analysis. A forensic examiner was requested to reexamine prints from the Burger King bag that were originally examined by a now-retired examiner. Mr. Albright asked the witness, “Whose prints were contained on the Burger King bag?” and the forensic examiner testified that when compared to a set of known prints from custody, “The right palm print matched that of Woodbury’s.”

In the bank robbery incident, Woodbury flashed what appeared to be a gun to a teller who testified she was about 3-4 months pregnant at the time. “I was robbed,” stated the former teller, “A gentleman pulled up his shirt, showed me a gun and said to give me all the money. I then put it in his hand and told a co-worker I had been robbed. They then activated the alarm.” Mr. Richardson asked the woman, “During the event, were you in fear for your life?” and the woman responded simply, “Yes.”

The prosecution’s next witness was the lead investigator for the New Hampshire State Police regarding Woodbury’s triple murder. The detective testified that Woodbury was, “apprehended about 2-4 hours” after the homicides due to the public reporting seeing a man matching Woodbury’s description along railroad tracks outside of Conway, N.H.

“During the interview, I asked Woodbury to tell me his side, and he said his intention was basically to rob it (Army Barracks store).” The detective continued, “He (Woodbury) said he was basically homeless, on foot. The clerk (Walker) suspected him of thievery. The clerk then supposedly leaned below the counter when Woodbury drew his gun and shot. The two men, Gary and William Jones, were in ‘the wrong place at the wrong time’ and he took off in ‘flight mode’.” The detective then stated, “Woodbury’s story matched the crime scene.” Woodbury received three life sentences for the triple homicide, and the detective identified Woodbury seated at the counsel table. A box cutter was found at the scene behind the counter with Walker.

The prosecution’s final witness was the lead investigator assigned from Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), who was requested by FDOC to perform the investigation of inmate Haynes’ death. In a press release from FDOC on Dec. 16, 2014, it was stated that a Memorandum of Understanding exists between FDOC and FDLE. It mandates any questionable deaths would be investigated by FDLE and that FDLE is immediately notified of any death that occurs at any FDOC facility. Accompanying the investigator were five clips of undercover audio/video recorded statements of Woodbury after being read his Miranda warning.

In the clips, Woodbury can be seen and heard providing contradictory information to his reason for the attack on his cell mate. “I wanted to make sure they (OCI) had switched correctional officers … I gave him every fighting chance to defend himself,” Woodbury stated. He also claimed to give Haynes, “one of the most brutal beat-downs possible,” and that he, “was so happy to kill someone again, the blood-lust, ya know?” A voice in the video asked Woodbury, “Did you barricade the door?” with Woodbury responding, “Yes, with paper. It’s very easy to do because it’s on a track.” The reported reasoning for Woodbury’s attack was that he was upset that the FDOC agency would not transfer him to a prison up north to see his father who was supposedly dying of cancer at the time.

Woodbury was seen and heard again in the video saying another reason for his attack on Haynes being due to his manipulation of religion. “Once he (Haynes) decided to start a hustle with a Christian prayer circle, I thought, “You’re mine now!” An indiscernible voice in the video asked, “Did you enjoy it?” Woodbury’s reply was, “Of course I did.”

Woodbury also decided to testify on his behalf. Just prior to entering the witness box, Woodbury submitted two reports from OCI personnel as evidence for mitigating circumstances on his behalf. The mitigating circumstances presented by Woodbury were: 1) The capital felony was committed while the defendant was under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance, and; 2) The existence of any other factors in the defendant’s background that would mitigate against imposition of the death penalty.

“Ultimately, I really don’t think I did anything wrong. He woke me up at 2 a.m. ready for battle when he touched my leg towards my groin,” Woodbury stated before he addressed the video, “I would like to say that it is pretty obvious that I’m making stuff up as I go along. I would also like to say that is me at my bipolar worst. I don’t feel like I killed him because I’m crazy, I did it because he tried to rape me.”

Woodbury then shifted to his opinion of possibly receiving the sentence of death by the jury, “I shouldn’t have been living life like that, I was living wrong and people are dead because of me. I’m being punished by the DOC, I think it’s wrong to use this case to kill me for 2007. Killing me really wouldn’t solve anything, if anyone thinks differently, vote for it.”

In cross-examination by the prosecution, Mr. Albright asked Woodbury, “All of the documents and evidence, that was you, correct?” Woodbury responded, “Yes, I was trying to manipulate you into giving me the death penalty.” Mr. Albright inquired as to the reason of Woodbury providing not being able to see a sick cancer-ridden father, to which Woodbury revealed, “My father is in perfect health and not dying of cancer.” Woodbury testified, “95 percent of that video was to manipulate you for what is going on in court right now.” His final statements under oath were, “I believe all rapists and child molesters should die. I wanted him (Haynes) to be hurt so bad, he would have to go to the hospital and I would not have to worry about him coming back.”

As of October 2016, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that jury recommendations for the sentence of death were to be done unanimously, not by majority vote. The sentence of death verdict rendered by the jury during the penalty phase proceeding is advisory – which means that the judge presiding over the penalty phase proceeding ultimately determines the sentence, and can “override” the jury’s recommendation if determined. It is rare that a penalty phase judge enters a sentence which is different than the jury’s recommendation.

Both the penalty phase judge and jury are required by statute to base their sentencing determinations on the consideration of aggravating and mitigating circumstances.

Pursuant to Florida Statute 921.141(4), in all cases in which the death penalty is imposed, the judgment of conviction and sentence of death shall be subject to automatic review by the Supreme Court of Florida and disposition rendered within two years after the filing of a notice of appeal.

The Lake Okeechobee News is published every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday and now includes news from around the lake every Wednesday.

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