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.
BUZIA, John (W/M)
Eighteenth Judicial Circuit, Seminole County Case # 00-923
Sentencing Judge: The Honorable Kenneth Lester
Attorney, Trial: Timothy Caudill & James Figgatt – Assistant Public Defender
Attorney, Direct Appeal: George D.E. Burden – Assistant Public Defender
Attorney, Collateral Appeals: Hunter Harris Chamberlin – CCRC-M
Date of Offense: 03/14/00
Date of Sentence: 03/11/04
Circumstances of Offense:
John Buzia performed odd jobs around the residence and rental properties of Charles and Thea Kersch. On the morning of 03/14/00, Buzia did not arrive at the Kersch residence to work as scheduled. In a later police interview, Buzia stated that he intended to resolve a “money issue” with the Kersches by stealing money from them.
When Mrs. Kersch arrived at her residence around 4:00 on the 14th, Buzia was waiting for her. He told her that he needed to talk to her husband. After a brief conversation and without warning, Buzia struck Mrs. Kersch several times with his fist, causing blood to spray from her nose. After he knocked her down, he kicked her, and she lost consciousness. He took her keys and removed $80 from her purse, then dragged her into the back bedroom and covered her with a blanket. Buzia then searched the house and removed a Mastercard from her purse.
Buzia heard the garage door open and assumed that Mr. Kersch had arrived. As Mr. Kersch entered the house through the garage entrance, Buzia struck him with his fist, causing Mr. Kersch to fall to the floor and hit his head on the tile. Mr. Kersch attempted to rise, Buzia struck him again with his fist, and Mr. Kersch again fell to the floor. Buzia removed $100 from Mr. Kersch’s wallet.
Buzia removed an axe (either single or double-edged) from the garage and struck Mr. Kersch once in the head with the flat side of the axe. After hearing Mrs. Kersch groaning from the back bedroom, Buzia went to the back bedroom and also struck her once in the head with the flat side of the axe. During police questioning after his arrest, Buzia claimed that he struck the Kersches with the axe to allow himself more time to escape.
After attempting to clean up the house, Buzia took Mr. Kersch’s car keys and one of his t-shirts. Buzia then changed shirts and drove away in Mr. Kersch’s car. Mrs. Kersch had called 911 after Buzia’s initial attack, and a sheriff’s deputy responded after Buzia fled. Mrs. Kersch identified Buzia as the attacker. Paramedics later arrived and treated Mrs. Kersch for her injuries, but Mr. Kersch died from blunt force trauma to his head.
The following morning, Buzia was arrested as he attempted to cash an $830 check from Mr. Kersch’s account. Bank employees recognized the car’s description and license plate from television and newspaper reports regarding the Kersch’s missing car and called police, who arrested Buzia at the bank.
04/04/00 Indicted as follows:
Count I: First-Degree Murder
Count II: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count III: Armed Burglary with Assault
Count IV: Armed Robbery
03/28/03 Jury returned guilty verdicts on all counts of the indictment
04/04/03 Jury recommended death by a vote of 8-4
03/11/04 Sentenced as follows:
Count I: First-Degree Murder – Death
Count II: Attempted First-Degree Murder – Life Imprisonment
Count III: Armed Burglary with Assault – Life Imprisonment
Count IV: Armed Robbery – Life Imprisonment
Florida Supreme Court – Direct Appeal
926 So. 2d 1203
04/01/04 Appeal filed
03/23/06 FSC affirmed convictions and sentences
04/13/06 Mandate issued
U.S. Supreme Court – Petition for Writ of Certiorari
127 S. Ct. 184
06/21/06 Petition filed
10/02/06 USSC denied petition
State Circuit Court – 3.850 Motion
08/30/07 Motion filed
12/18/07 Motion amended
02/01/08 Motion amended
10/01/09 Motion denied
Florida Supreme Court – 3.850 Motion
980 So.2d 1070
01/22/08 Emergency petition filed
01/22/08 Motion for stay of proceedings
04/03/08 Dismissed as moot
Florida Supreme Court – 3.850 Motion Appeal
01/11/10 Appeal filed
Florida Supreme Court – Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus
8/23/10 Petition Filed
Factors Contributing to the Delay in Imposition of Sentence:
Four years elapsed between the offense date and sentence date. The offense occurred on 03/14/00, yet the sentence was handed down on 03/11/04.
On 04/01/04, Buzia filed a Direct Appeal in the Florida Supreme Court, citing the following errors: finding the aggravating circumstances of avoiding arrest, HAC (heinous, atrocious, cruel), and CCP (cold, calculated, premeditated); finding that the death penalty is warranted; and using a sentencing procedure that violates Ring. On 03/23/06, the FSC affirmed the convictions and sentences.
On 06/21/06, Buzia filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court, which was denied on 10/02/06.
On 08/30/07, Buzia filed a Motion for Post-Conviction Relief in the State Circuit Court, which was denied on 10/01/09.
On 01/11/10, Buzia filed a 3.850 Motion Appeal with the Florida Supreme Court, which is pending.
On 8/23/10, Buzia filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus with the Florida Supreme Court, which is pending.
Report Date: 03/16/07 JFL
Updated: 10/18/10 JJK