CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) — A Florida judge took an unusual step Thursday to try to persuade an inmate to testify about a high-profile death row case: He asked the inmate’s mother to have a word with him in private.
Pinellas County Judge Pat Siracusa spent the morning trying to get inmate Jack Pearcy to talk during a hearing about the 1985 slaying of 14-year-old Shelly Boggio. Pearcy is serving a life sentence after a 1987 conviction for the crime. His co-defendant, James Dailey, is facing execution for the killing.
The inmate declined to testify.
Attorneys for Dailey say Pearcy signed sworn testimony in December that said Dailey had nothing to do with the girl’s death and aimed to introduce that testimony — or get Pearcy to discuss it — in hopes of exonerating Dailey and sparing him from lethal injection.
In September, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Dailey’s death warrant and set an execution for last November. A federal judge in October granted a temporary stay of execution. That expired Dec. 30. A new execution date hasn’t been sent.
Between December’s meeting with Dailey’s attorney and this month, Pearcy has changed his mind, and seemingly recanted that testimony, according to the attorney, Josh Dubin.
Dubin spoke at Thursday’s hearing, seeking the testimony.
But on Thursday, Pearcy told the court that he wouldn’t discuss his statements to the defense lawyer.
“Today’s your day to tell the truth,” Siracusa said, adding that there wasn’t much he could do if Pearcy didn’t testify, since he’s already serving life in prison. “Can you do me a solid?”
Pearcy said no. “I’ve made up my mind. I don’t see where it will help anybody. I can’t help bring Shelley back.”
Siracusa sent Pearcy back to a holding cell, out of the court. Then after a discussion with prosecutors and defense attorneys, he called Pearcy’s elderly mom, Sally Simon, and her husband — Pearcy’s stepfather — to the stand.
“It’s unique and outside of the box,” Siracusa said. “Are you two willing to help us out here? It’s not being recorded. This is a rare opportunity for a private conversation with your son.”
The couple agreed and bailiffs escorted them to the back. About five minutes later, they emerged. Robert Simon told the judge that Pearcy wouldn’t testify.
“We thank you for being kind to him,” Simon said.
Siracusa again brought Pearcy back on the stand, and again, the man refused to discuss the case.
“I’m pretty disappointed here,” Siracusa said.
Attorneys for Dailey spent the afternoon introducing other evidence in the case, attempting to show that their client wasn’t responsible for the teen’s murder.
Dailey and Pearcy were both found guilty of murder in separate trials. The teen had been beaten, choked, stabbed more than 30 times and ultimately drowned, and her body was found floating in the Intracoastal Waterway near the Gulf of Mexico in Pinellas County.
The men were among the last people seen with her.
By TAMARA LUSH
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