Lambrix executed after 30-year-old conviction

GLADES COUNTY — A Glades County man was executed Oct. 5 by way of lethal injection for two convictions of first-degree murder. The murders occurred in 1983.

Cary Michael Lambrix, 57, of LaBelle, was pronounced dead by a doctor who checked Lambrix’s chest with a stethoscope and shined a light in both of his eyes, noted the Orlando Sentinel. Lambrix is survived by his father, mother, three children and seven grandchildren.

According to the Supreme Court of Florida, Lambrix filed both a successive motion for post-conviction relief and a motion for post-conviction DNA testing. In December 2015, the post-conviction court summarily denied both of Lambrix’s motions. Lambrix appealed these orders to the Supreme Court of Florida and filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus.

Supreme Court of the State of Florida

The Supreme Court of Florida concluded Lambrix was not entitled to a new penalty phase based on Hurst v. Florida, which found Florida’s system for sentencing people to death was unconstitutional because it gave too much power to judges, instead of juries; and further rejected the other grounds for relief that he raised as devoid of merit. The Supreme Court of Florida affirmed the post-conviction court’s denial of relief and denied Lambrix’s separate petition for habeas corpus.

The facts of the case were set forth in Lambrix’s direct appeal of his conviction and sentence of death.

According to the original trial testimony, on the evening of Feb. 5, 1983, Lambrix and Frances Smith, his roommate, went to a tavern where they met Clarence Moore and Aleisha Bryant. Late that evening, they all ventured to Lambrix’s trailer to eat spaghetti. Shortly after their arrival, Lambrix and Moore went outside. Lambrix returned about 20 minutes later and requested Bryant to go outside with him. About 45 minutes later Lambrix returned alone.

Smith testified that Lambrix was carrying a tire tool and had blood on his person and clothing. Lambrix told Smith that he killed both Bryant and Moore. He mentioned that he choked and stomped on Bryant and hit Moore over the head. Smith and Lambrix proceeded to eat spaghetti, wash up, and bury the two bodies behind the trailer. After burying the bodies, Lambrix and Smith went back to the trailer to wash up. They then took Moore’s Cadillac and disposed of the tire tool and Lambrix’ bloody shirt in a nearby stream.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that two days prior to the scheduled execution Lambrix “talked about life and death, his last meal and upcoming funeral, and criticized a court system that has long insisted would not consider evidence that would spare his life.”

Lambrix told reporters that “it won’t be an execution. It’s going to be an act of cold-blooded murder.”

Lambrix claimed that he killed Moore in self-defense after Moore killed Bryant during their night of drinking.

Lambrix claimed he had walked away from a prison work release program and did not report the killings to law enforcement because of a possible long sentence for his escape.

The Tampa Bay Times noted that he was largely convicted on the testimony of his friend and roommate Smith, who admitted to having an affair during the trial with an investigator for the state attorney’s office.

Lambrix’s first trial ended in a hung jury but he was convicted during retrial on two counts of first-degree murder in two divided jury recommendations – with counts of 8-4 and 10-2 in favor of the death penalty being applied. The U.S. Supreme Court had found Florida’s death penalty law unconstitutional and state legislators have since changed the law on two occasions.

Lambrix’s lawyer, William Hennis, argued to the U.S. Supreme Court that since the jury recommendations were not done unanimously, in accordance with the Florida Supreme Court ruling in October 2016, but with only a majority vote, they should be thrown out. The Supreme Court of Florida, however, has ruled that Lambrix’s case is too old to qualify for relief from the new sentencing and that it only applies to cases back to 2002. The U.S. Supreme Court denied Lambrix’s last appeal Thursday night prior to his execution.

During his interview Tuesday, Oct. 3, Lambrix voiced regret for not giving police a statement at the time of his arrest in 1983 and for not accepting a plea-bargain of second-degree murder offered by prosecutors with a possible sentence of up to 24 years. He would have been released from prison over a decade ago, if that offer had been accepted.

Lambrix had been on death row for over 30 years and his first death warrant was signed by former Florida Governor Bob Martinez, who left office in 1991. Florida Governor Rick Scott signed Lambrix’s death warrant in November 2015 but the execution had been postponed after the Hurst v. Florida decision that happened two short months later in January 2016.

Lambrix’s final meal was one similar to what his mother promised to have made upon his exoneration: a Thanksgiving-style dinner that comprised of turkey breast and leg, giblet gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and brown sugar, mixed vegetables with butter, a dinner roll with honey and butter, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, vanilla-caramel gelato, and chocolate milk. Lambrix expressed that his final words would be “…to say the Lord’s Prayer,” and as the lethal injection took its effect, he ended with “deliver us from evil.”

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