A Jacksonville man on Death Row for his role in robbing, kidnapping and burying a disabled Jacksonville couple alive is asking for a new trial.
Alan Lyndell Wade, 26, is arguing that the attorneys who represented him during his criminal trial were ineffective. Wade was convicted of multiple counts of first-degree murder, armed robbery and kidnapping. A jury recommended death by an 11-1 vote and Circuit Judge Michael Weatherby concurred.
Wade was one of four people who kidnapped Carol and Reggie Sumner, both 61, from their St. Nicholas home in 2005 and drove them to Charlton County, Ga., where they were buried alive.
Slideshow: Meet Duval County's Death Row inmates
On Monday Wade’s current lawyer, Ann Finnell, told the Florida Supreme Court that Wade’s previous attorneys were unprepared for trial and allowed evidence in that any competent lawyer would have objected to.
“Mr. Wade would have been better off with a first-year law student who cared,” Finnell said.
The lead attorney for Wade during his trial was Refik Eler. At the time of the trial Eler was in private practice. He is now the chief deputy for 4th Circuit Public Defender Matt Shirk.
Eler declined comment on the appeal, saying it would be improper for him to discuss a case that was still pending.
Finnell said Eler and the other attorney on the case barely met with Wade, didn’t talk with witnesses before putting them on the stand during the trial and penalty phase and didn’t object to evidence that could have been kept out of the case.
Michael James Jackson, 31, the mastermind of the murder plot, and Jackson’s girlfriend, Tiffany Ann Cole, 32, are also on Death Row. A fourth participant, 26-year-old Bruce Nixon, testified against the others and was sentenced to 45 years in prison for second-degree murder.
The four were arrested in Charleston, S.C., a week after the Sumners disappeared. Police found Jackson with the couple’s ATM cards and personal information.
But Finnell argued that police didn’t have good reason to search Wade’s hotel room because they didn’t have any evidence that he’d been involved in the crime at that time. She said the search warrant for Wade’s hotel room could have been suppressed, but his attorneys never tried to do that.
She also argued that evidence of Wade’s drug-abuse and mental-health issues were never explored, telling justices that Nixon testified Wade was “completely wasted” the night of the murder.
Assistant Attorney General Renee Rancour argued that the original lawyers' trial strategy was to object as little as possible and let the jurors know that Jackson and Cole were the real masterminds of the crime.
But Justice Barbara Pariente expressed concern over this, saying there appeared to be times when an objection was obvious, but Wade’s lawyers didn’t do it.
Rancour also said Wade freely and voluntarily chose to participate in the robbery, kidnapping and murder.
Justices did not say when they would issue a ruling in the case. Wade will remain in prison while the appeal is decided and did not attend Monday’s hearing.
Larry Hannan: (904) 359-4470