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Justices order new trials for 2 Florida Death Row inmates

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TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday ordered new trials for two Death Row inmates, including for a man convicted in the murders of a Broward County couple after his mother provided key testimony.

In unusual moves, justices overturned the convictions of Peter Avsenew in the 2010 murders in Broward County and of Jason Simpson, convicted of killing a drug dealer and the dealer’s pregnant girlfriend in 1999 in Duval County.

In both cases, the Supreme Court found that judges made errors that required new trials. Avsenew was sentenced to death in 2018, while Simpson was sentenced in 2007.

Avsenew was convicted in the shooting deaths of Steven Adams and Kevin Powell and taking the couple’s sport-utility vehicle and money. Avsenew, who had been staying with the couple, drove to Polk County, where his mother, Jeanne Avsenew, lived.

After a series of circumstances, including Avsenew telling his mother he was driving a stolen SUV, she did a computer search and found that he was a “person of interest” in the murders, according to the Supreme Court ruling. She contacted police, and Avsenew was subsequently arrested.

But Thursday’s ruling centered on video testimony of Jeanne Avsenew that was used in her son’s trial. The appeal did not take issue with video testimony, which is allowed under a court rule if a witness is unable to attend a trial.

Justices, however, said the set-up of the equipment used in the testimony prevented Jeanne Avsenew from seeing her son. That violated a rule that says courts must “keep the defendant in the presence of the witness.”

In the unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court said it “does not take lightly the impact of today’s decision. However, the introduction of Ms. Avsenew’s testimony constituted harmful error, and we are bound to rule in a manner that remedies such error.”

In the Duval County case, the Supreme Court said Simpson should receive a new trial because prosecutors did not disclose that a witness against him was a confidential informant for the state.

Simpson was convicted in the murders of drug dealer Archie Howard Crook and Crook’s pregnant girlfriend, Kimberli Kimbler. They were hacked to death with an ax in the bedroom of their home, according to the Supreme Court ruling.

The witness whose work as an informant had not been disclosed was Crook’s son, Archie Clyde Crook — identified in the ruling as “Little Archie.” Simpson’s defense attorneys argued during the trial that Little Archie had killed his father and Kimbler.

Little Archie had served as an informant against another man, George Michael Durrance, who was described in the ruling as being an associate of the Crook father and son and Simpson in the drug trade.

Durrance also was a figure in the Simpson murder case, and the Supreme Court, in a 5-1 decision, said Little Archie’s role as a confidential informant should have been disclosed.

The majority opinion said the “relationship between Simpson, Little Archie, and Durrance was of critical importance in this case, and the information Little Archie provided to law enforcement pertaining to Durrance casts a different light on this relationship.”

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Homestead Police release picture of person of interest in fatal hit-and-run

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HOMESTEAD, FLA. (WSVN) – Homestead Police released a picture of a man they consider to be a person of interest in a hit-and-run that left an elderly man dead.

Police on Friday said they would like to question 20-year-old Edgar Mendez about Sunday’s crash in the area of Northwest Eighth Street and Campbell Drive.

Investigators said 71-year-old Carlos Diaz was walking was hit by a driver who took off before police responded.

If you have any information on this hit-and-run or Mendez’s whereabouts, call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS. Remember, you can always remain anonymous, and you may be eligible for a reward of up to $5,000.

Copyright 2021 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Armed Robbery In Medley Leads Investigators To Human Trafficking Arrests

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MEDLEY (CBSMiami) – An armed robbery in Medley leads investigators to make two arrests in human trafficking.  

“Medley Police Department responded to South River Suites located at 12484 Northwest South River Drive, in regards to an armed robbery, when officers arrived they encountered three victims that stated they have been victims of an armed robbery,” Medley Police Sgt. Louis Ponce said.  

READ MORE: FIU President Mark Rosenberg Resigns, Cites Health Issues

Officers responded shortly after 5:30 a.m. Thursday.

The victims said the two men knocked on their door, and apparently had on masks.  

“And when the victims went to open the door, they were armed with firearms and robbed the victims,” Ponce said.  

According to State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundel’s office, one of the victims, one of those victims was at the location awaiting a pre-arranged prostitution encounter.  

“Our officers were able to identify specific things during their conversation that they were able to pry at which point the victim came forward and advised that yes she was in fact a victim of human trafficking.”

Through the investigation, the two other people were arrested. 40-year-old Raul Antonio Jimenez-Rodriguez and 30-year-old Grettel Caceres-Grego are facing charges that include, human trafficking and directing another to a place of prostitution.

“Broward was one of the places that she was trafficked in, as well as Tampa,” Roger Dehart said. 

READ MORE: Judge: Legal Costs In Surfside Condo Collapse May Reach $100M

This case hits close to Roger Dehart, a Broward Sheriff’s Office Court Bailiff.

He has not only witnessed hearings on human trafficking, but he says people he’s known to have been people affected. 

“Violence towards her kids at the time were 8 and 11 so they had pictures of her kids, they knew what school they went to they did their research,” Dehart explained. 

Too often people don’t know it is happening, that’s why Dehart is speaking out, and in the past has walked from Fort Lauderdale to Washington DC to raise awareness. It took 51 days he told CBS 4.  

“I would encourage people to educate themselves.”  

The US Department of State has a list of potential indicators: 

  • Living with employer
  • Poor living conditions
  • Multiple people in cramped space
  • Inability to speak to individual alone
  • Answers appear to be scripted and rehearsed
  • Employer is holding identity documents
  • Signs of physical abuse
  • Submissive or fearful
  • Unpaid or paid very little
  • Under 18 and in prostitution

“You know this isn’t just about Miami-Dade County or Florida as a whole this is an issue that’s going on throughout the nation, throughout the world, and we need the public’s assistance to put a stop to it,” Ponce said.

MORE NEWS: FBI: Laundrie Admitted Killing Gabby Petito In Notebook

There is a human trafficking hotline for anyone who needs help. It’s 1 (888) 373-7888. Police are also still looking for any information on the robbery suspects.

Jacqueline Quynh

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M. Night Shyamalan’s creepy ‘Servant’ returns to Apple TV+ for Season 3

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M. Night Shyamalan’s “Servant” is a series full of twists and turns. Season 3 of the show returned Friday night. We talk with M and the cast about what creepy cult craziness viewers can expect.

Lauren Ambrose (as Dorothy Turner): “What is going on?”

You’re about to find out what’s going on in the new season of M. Night Shyamalan’s “Servant.”

The Apple TV+ show follows Dorothy and Sean turner and their nanny Leanne, who used to be in a cult.

In Season 3, the Turners attempt to live a normal life with their son Jericho.

But that’s not possible, thanks to Leanne and her craziness.

Nell Tiger Free: “This is a very new Leanne. There’s a lot of paranoia that comes with it.”

Lauren Ambrose: “They’re fighting over the the soul and the love of this child. It’s pretty intense.”

Just like prior seasons, M. asks up-and-coming directors to join his vision.

M. Night Shyamalan: “I guess, in some little mini way, this is like a little mini-studio, “Servant,” where I get to see something anywhere in the world at a film festival, if something is sent to me, or I get to see a movie, and if I feel that kind of deep connection to it, I’ll call up the filmmaker, talk with him or her. And if I feel like, ‘Wow, they’re in a great place,’ I say, ‘Hey, will you come to Philly and direct one episode?’”

Now, with so much going on in the show, the cast members have questions from time to time.

Toby Kebbell: “I had quite a lot this season ’cause, you know, we had the break, because the pandemic hit us in Season 2, and then we started off doing Season 3 pretty quickly after that. And I was like, ‘So wait, so I don’t – I’m suddenly going to church every day? What is happening?’”

Well, hopefully, all will be answered when “Servant’s” fourth and final season airs in the future.

Rupert Grint: “Where we’re heading, I have no idea, for Season 4, is kind of anything can happen, and there’s something quite exciting about that.”

Copyright 2021 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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