Willie Jasper Darden, Jr. (Florida) Case Chart  Case Summary

Name/DOC #

Willie Jasper Darden


Florida State Prison–executed March 15, 1988

Date of Birth




Date of Crime

September 8, 1973

Age Time of Crime


Date Sentenced

January 23, 1974


James Carl Turman–killed; Phillip Arnold–wounded

Race of Victims


Relationship to Defendant


Summary of Facts Alleged by State

During a robbery at Carl’s Furniture store in Lakeland, FL, James Carl Turman shot and killed a neighbor; Phillip Arnold, 16, was wounded

County of Trial

Citrus Co., FL

Trial Judge

John H. Dewell

Trial Attorney

Asst. PD’s: Dennis Maloney and Tod Goodwill


Ray McDaniel and J. Norman White

Trial By


Race of Jurors

All white, 4 women, 8 men

Convicted of

Capital murder



Accomplice Testimony


Eyewitness Testimony

Yes: victim’s wife and Phillip Arnold, 16 year old who was wounded; identification under highly suggestive circumstances

Forensic Testimony

FBI agent testified gun found by police could have fired bullet that killed victim, however gun was not proven to be murder weapon or to belong to Darden

Jailhouse Snitch


Defendant Testimony

Yes–testified at guilt phase that he was innocent

Principal Exculpatory Evidence

Darden’s car had broken down on highway near someone’s house. He was standing there waiting for a tow truck at time of crime. She came to court every day to testify and was never called; victim’s minister could have corroborated Darden’s alibi but was not called to testify

Sentencing Authority

Jury recommended and judge imposed death

Statutory Aggravating Factor

Crime committed while under sentence of imprisonment; crime committed while in commission of a robbery; crime especially heinous, atrocious, and cruel

Non-Statutory Aggravating Factor

FL law does not require jurors to specify aggravating factors

Mitigating Factors

Mother died in childbirth when he was two; Darden considered non violent, very poor ex-slave, farming family; no mitigating evidence presented at trial (477 US 168). Judge considered Darden’s claims of innocence and fact that he had 7 children

Evidence of Mental Illness Retardation and or Neurological Damage


Criminal History

6 year sentence for forging check for $48; on furlough from a FL prison; FSC said he was a career criminal with at least 5 convictions; furlough was from 1968 sentence for assault with intent to rape a 70 year old woman

Appellate History

FSC affirmed on direct appeal (Darden v. State, 329 So. 2d 287) 1976;

USSC granted cert, heard argument, dismissed writ (430 US 704) 1977;

FDC denied habeas (Darden v. Wainwright, 513 F. Supp 947)1981;

US Ct. of Appeals panel affirmed, 2 to 1 (699 F 2d 1031)1983;

US Ct. of Appeals rehearing en banc, affirmed (court equally divided) (708 F 2d 646)1983;

US Ct. of Appeals heard case again en banc and reversed (725F.2d 1526);

USSC granted state’s cert petition, vacated 11th Circuit opinion and remanded for reconsideration (469 U.S. 1201) 1985;

On remand, 11th Circuit denied relief (767 F. 2d 752) 1985;

USSC granted cert on petition for stay of execution (473 U.S. 928) 1985;

USSC affirmed case, 1986;

US Ct. of Appeals rejected appeal from failure of 3rd habeas writ (825 F.2d 287) 1987;

USSC granted cert (484 US 943) 1988; USSC denies cert & stay (485 US 949) 1988.

Ineffective Assistance?

Alleged but rejected by courts

Police Misconduct?

None shown

Prosecutorial Misconduct?

Prosecutor used inflammatory and racist language in trial; Justice Blackmun, in US Supreme Ct. Dissent, stated he did not get a fair trial; identified by victim’s wife in a courtroom where he was the only Black man, not in a lineup

Appellate Counsel

Robert Augustus Harper, CCR office


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