The Commission on Capital Cases updates this information regularly. This information, however, is subject to change and may not reflect the latest status of an inmate’s case and should not be relied upon for statistical or legal purposes.
DUCKETT, James (W/M)
Fifth Judicial Circuit, Lake County Case # 87-1347 & 88-0262
Sentencing Judge: The Honorable Jerry T. Lockett
Attorney, Trial: Jack Edmund – Private
Attorney, Direct Appeal: Jack Edmund – Private
Attorney, Collateral Appeals: Mary Elizabeth Wells – CCRC-S
Date of Offense: 05/12/87
Date of Sentence: 06/30/88
Circumstances of Offense:
James Duckett was the only police officer on patrol on the night of 05/11/87 in the city of Mascotte, Florida. Around 10:00 p.m., eleven-year-old Teresa McAbee walked to a convenience store to purchase a pencil and, after leaving the store, stopped to talk to a sixteen-year-old boy outside the store. Duckett arrived at the convenience store shortly afterward and, after asking the store clerk the age of McAbee, he approached McAbee and the boy. After a brief conversation, Duckett told McAbee to go home, leaving the boy to wait for his uncle. When the boy’s uncle arrived, the boy and his uncle witnessed McAbee getting into the passenger side of Duckett’s patrol car.
At 11:00 p.m., McAbee’s mother walked to the convenience store, looking for her daughter. The store clerk told the mother that McAbee had left with Duckett and was probably at the Mascotte police station. When no one was found at the Mascotte police station, the mother drove to nearby Groveland police station, where she reported her daughter missing. The Groveland police officer contacted a Mascotte police officer, and Duckett arrived at the Groveland police station within twenty minutes. Duckett used a picture of McAbee to make a flyer that he said he would post at convenience stores in the area, however, he failed to do so.
The store clerk reported that the police drove by the store every hour, but she reported that Duckett came by at 9:30 p.m. but did not return for a few hours. Additionally, Duckett made no radio calls between 9:50 p.m. and 12:10 a.m.
The next morning McAbee’s body was found in a lake less than one mile from the convenience store where she was last seen. Medical testimony demonstrated that she was sexually assaulted while alive and then drowned. Blood and a pubic hair, later identified as probable matches to Duckett, were found in her underpants and semen was found on her jeans.
Distinct tire tracks found at the scene were matched to the tires found on the Mascotte Police Department patrol cars. Duckett’s and McAbee’s fingerprints were found on the hood of the car, indicating that she was sitting backwards on the hood of the car.
At trial, three girls between the ages of seventeen and nineteen testified that in the six months prior to the murder, Duckett had given rides to each of them and had made sexual advances. One of the girls testified that she participated in sexual acts with Duckett.
10/27/87 Indicted for First Degree Murder (Case# 87-1347)
03/01/88 Information presented charging 1 count of Sexual Battery by an Adult of a Victim Under the Age of 12 (Case# 88-0262)
04/11/88 Cases consolidated
05/10/88 Jury returned guilty verdicts
Jury recommended a death sentence by a vote of 8-4
06/30/88 Sentenced as follows:
First Degree Murder – Death
Sexual Battery – Life Imprisonment
Florida Supreme Court – Direct Appeal
568 So.2d 891
07/05/88 Appeal filed
09/06/90 FSC affirmed conviction and sentence
11/14/90 Rehearing denied
12/17/90 Mandate issued
Circuit Court – 3.850 Motion
05/01/92 Motion filed
06/12/92 Motion amended
11/14/94 Motion amended
08/10/01 Circuit Court denied Motion
Florida Supreme Court – 3.850 Motion Appeal
918 So.2d 224
09/28/01 Appeal filed
10/06/05 FSC affirmed denial of motion
12/22/05 Rehearing denied
01/09/06 Mandate issued
Florida Supreme Court – Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus
918 So.2d 224
06/07/02 Petition filed
10/06/05 FSC denied petition
12/22/05 Rehearing denied
01/09/06 Mandate issued
United States Supreme Court- Petition for Writ of Certiorari
127 U.S. 103
05/22/06 Petition filed
10/02/06 Petition denied
United States District Court, Middle District- Petition for Wirt of Habeas Corpus
01/08/07 Petition filed
03/25/10 Petition denied
07/12/10 COA filed
08/23/10 COA denied
United States Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit – Habeas Appeal
06/29/10 Appeal filed
11/01/10 COA denied
Circuit Court – 3.851 Motion
11/29/10 Motion filed
Factors Contributing to the Delay in Imposition of Sentence:
The 3.850 Motion was pending for nine years (05/01/92 – 8/10/01).
The 3.850 Motion Appeal was pending for four years and the Habeas Petition was pending for three years. During the appeal, the issue of DNA testing arose. On 03/21/03, the FSC remanded the case to the Circuit Court to determine if evidence existed for DNA testing. The Circuit Court held an evidentiary hearing on 10/03/03, and on 02/09/04, ruled that evidence existed for DNA testing, but the evidence would be completely destroyed by the testing. As a result, the court denied DNA testing on the evidence. Duckett appealed the Circuit Court’s decision to the FSC.
On 07/05/88, Duckett filed a Direct Appeal with the Florida Supreme Court, citing the following trial court errors: circumstantial evidence did not exclude all reasonable hypotheses of innocence, admitting testimony of the three girls, qualifying a state witness as an expert in hair analysis, and imposition of the death penalty. The FSC affirmed the convictions and sentences on 09/06/90.
On 05/01/92, Duckett filed a 3.850 Motion with the circuit court that was amended on 06/12/92 and 11/14/94 and denied on 08/10/01.
On 09/28/01, Duckett filed a 3.850 Motion Appeal with the Florida Supreme Court, raising the following issues: ineffective assistance of counsel; failing to present exculpatory evidence, including DNA evidence; prosecutorial misconduct; applying vague aggravating circumstances; and improper jury instructions. On 10/06/05, the FSC affirmed the denial of the motion.
On 06/07/02, Duckett filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus with the Florida Supreme Court, raising the following issues: ineffective assistance of counsel and Ring issues. On 10/06/05, the FSC denied the petition.
On 05/22/06, a Writ of Certiorari was filed in the United States Supreme Court, which was denied on 10/02/06.
On 01/08/07, Duckett filed a Writ of Habeas Corpus in the United States District Court, Middle District, which was denied on 03/25/10. On 07/12/10, Duckett filed an Application for a Certificate of Appealablity, which was denied on 08/23/10.
On 06/29/10, Duckett filed a Habeas Appeal in the United States Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit. Duckett’s Certificate of Appealability was denied on 11/01/10.
On 11/29/10, Duckett filed a successive 3.851 Motion in the Circuit Court. That motion is pending.
THE FOLLOWING ENTRIES REFLECT DISCIPLINARY ACTIONS AGAINST THE INMATE FOR VIOLATION OF THE RULE CITED AND INDICATE THE GAIN TIME DAYS LOST.
DATE DAYS VIOLATION LOCATION
01/29/97 180 REF. SUB. ABUSE TEST UNION C. I.
07/03/01 30 POSS OF CONTRABAND FLORIDA STATE PRISON
01/08/02 24 FIGHTING FLORIDA STATE PRISON
11/01/04 30 POSS OF CONTRABAND FLORIDA STATE PRISON
04/15/05 30 POSS OF CONTRABAND FLORIDA STATE PRISON
05/25/05 90 ATTEMPT TO CONSPIRE FLORIDA STATE PRISON
Report Date: 11/09/01 JFL
Approved: 12/05/01 JFL
Updated: 01/25/11 JJK