Veterans Gathering Results in Anti-Death Penalty Letters to Florida Governor

March 18, 2020

By Savanna Kearney

More than 500 United States veterans attended Vets 4 Vets, a gathering of and tribute to veterans, in late February at the Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena. The event involved talks on subjects of concern for veterans, as well as 70 display tables by members of the community and state veteran organizations.

Prison Ministry of the Diocese of St. Augustine was at the event with a booth manned by Deacon Corky Hecht, director of prison ministry, and Dale Recinella, lay chaplain for Florida’s death row. Both men asked those in attendance to fill out and sign pre-written letters to Governor Ron Desantis requesting that he grant James Dailey a clemency hearing.

Dailey was convicted for the 1985 murder of 14-year-old Shelly Boggio. He is a life-long Catholic, a veteran who completed three tours in Vietnam and one in Korea and has a strong case for actual innocence. Prosecutors have conceded that there is no physical evidence tying Dailey to Boggio’s murder, no eyewitnesses placing Dailey at the scene of the crime, and his co-defendant, Jack Pearcy (who received a life sentence), has signed a sworn affidavit stating that he committed the crime. However, the Florida Supreme Court had not previously granted Dailey a new trial based on procedural time bars.

On Sept. 25, 2019, Florida Governor Ron Desantis signed a warrant of execution for 73-year-old James Dailey to be carried out on November 7, 2019, which was later stayed until December 30, 2019. If carried out, it would have been the 100th execution in Florida since the reinstatement of the death penalty in the 1970s.

They received about 100 completed and signed letters back, which Recinella hand-delivered to the Florida Catholic Conference in Tallahassee to pass on to Governor Desantis. The goal of the letters is to hopefully either commute Jim Dailey’s sentence or to convene a clemency board to look at his case more deeply before deciding to execute him.

The letter read as follows:

“As a follower of Christ, I am wholly opposed to a justice system that does not allow for issues of guilt to be fully investigated and presented. If there is a possibility that an individual could be innocent, those claims need to be investigated, presented, and reviewed.  Please grant a clemency hearing so that all the facts surrounding the unreliability of Mr. Dailey’s conviction can be brought to light.  I urge you to consider the significant amount of compelling evidence that Mr. Dailey may, in fact, be innocent of this crime. Our moral concerns regarding human dignity and the death penalty are severely exacerbated in a case, such as this, where the courts have not considered such significant evidence of innocence because of procedural bars asserted by the State.

Our hearts break for the victims of this murder; however, justice is not real if the punishment is imposed on an innocent party. Justice is only real when it is applied to the actual guilty party.

We urge you – for the sake of James Dailey, the victims of this murder, and the loved ones attached to this case – to not re-sign the warrant and to instead grant Mr. Dailey a clemency hearing.

‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ – Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thank you for your consideration in this matter.”

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