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.
PETTIT, Samuel Andrew (W/M)
Twentieth Judicial Circuit, Charlotte County, Case# 88-421CF
Sentencing Judge: The Honorable Elmer O. Friday
Attorney, Trial: Dennis J. Rehak – Private
Attorney, Direct Appeal: Gregory P. Burns – Private
Attorneys, Collateral Appeals: William Jennings & Robert T. Strain – CCRC-M
Date of Offense: 08/17/88
Date of Sentence: 10/13/89
Circumstances of Offense:
Samuel Pettit was convicted and sentenced to death for the 08/17/88 murder of Norman Langston.
On 08/17/88, Pettit approached Kathleen Finnegan and Norman Langston in a parking lot and, using a handgun he had got from his cousin, he forced them into Langston’s car. He ordered Langston to drive and directed him to an open area near a creek. While they were driving, Pettit forced Finnegan and Langston to give him their jewelry and money. Once they reached the creek, Pettit shot them four times and left. Finnegan was wounded, but managed to seek help and survived. Langston died from two gunshot wounds to the head.
After the incident, Pettit’s cousin went to the police with Finnegan’s watch and earrings and told them that Pettit had confessed the crimes to him. Pettit had also confessed the incident to three other people.
Police arrested Pettit on 08/19/88, while he was sleeping on a bench. They confiscated the gun used in the crimes from his pocket. He was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon and was later indicted for the crimes committed on 08/17/88.
09/06/88 Indicted as follows:
Count I: First-Degree Murder
Count II: Attempted First-Degree Murder
Count III: Kidnapping
Count IV: Kidnapping
Count V: Robbery
Count VI: Robbery
08/89 Court granted counsel’s motion to withdraw and accepted Pettit’s plea of guilty to all the above counts.
10/13/89 Sentenced as follows:
Count I: First-Degree Murder – Death
Count II: Attempted First-Degree Murder – Life
Count III: Kidnapping – Life
Count IV: Kidnapping – Life
Count V: Robbery – Life
Count VI: Robbery – Life
The trial court made special notes stating that Pettit never cooperated with the assigned counsel. Pettit insisted on pleading guilty to the charges against him and continuously refused his counsel’s advice. Two neurologists diagnosed Pettit with Huntington’s chorea, but found that he was competent at the time of the crimes. Other mental health experts testified that he was competent to proceed without counsel. The trial court granted the counsel’s request to withdraw and allowed Pettit to plea guilty to all the charges against him.
On 11/04/05, Pettit died of natural causes.
Florida Supreme Court – Direct Appeal
591 So. 2d 618 (1992)
02/20/90 Appeal filed
01/09/92 FSC affirmed conviction and sentence
02/10/92 Mandate issued
United States Supreme Court – Petition for Writ of Certiorari
506 U.S. 836; 113 S. Ct. 110; 121 L. Ed. 2d 68 (1992)
05/08/92 Petition filed
10/05/92 Petition denied
State Circuit Court – 3.850 Motion
12/02/93 Motion filed
05/19/99 Defendant found to be incompetent to proceed (Huntington’s Disease)
12/05/05 Further proceedings dismissed as moot, due to Pettit’s demise
Factors Contributing to the Delay in Imposition of Sentence:
Pettit’s 3.850 Motion has been continued due to the progression of Huntington’s chorea.
On 02/20/90, Pettit filed his Direct Appeal to the Florida Supreme Court. Pettit argued issues brought to the Florida Supreme Court for review. First Pettit contended that the lower court should not have granted the counsel’s motion for dismissal. Pettit also claimed the trial court should not have allowed him to plead guilty and remain unrepresented through the penalty phase. The Florida Supreme Court found the trial court took great care in making sure Pettit understood the consequence of his guilty plea. The Florida Supreme Court also found that the court performed numerous evaluations where all mental health experts agreed that Pettit was competent to proceed without counsel. The second issue raised was whether the trial judge erred in not considering nonstautory mitigatoring circumstances. The Florida Supreme Court found that, by allowing Pettit’s grandfather to testify, the judge did consider nonstatutory mitigating evidence. Finally, Pettit contended that the trial judge erred in finding that he was under a sentence of imprisonment when he committed the crimes. The Florida Supreme Court found that, because Pettit was on probation during the time of the offenses, he was not under a sentence of imprisonment. They concluded, however, that the error was harmless. On 01/09/92, the Florida Supreme Court affirmed the conviction and sentence.
On 05/08/92, Pettit filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the United States Supreme Court, which was denied on 10/05/92.
On 12/02/93, Pettit filed a 3.850 Motion to the Circuit Court. A motion was granted to hold all proceedings in abeyance, as the defendant was found incompetent to proceed due to the progression of Huntington’s chorea. On 12/05/05, the Court dismissed further proceedings as moot, due to Pettit’s demise. The Court is awaiting receipt of Pettit’s death certificate, at which time the matter will be concluded.
DATE DAYS VIOLATION LOCATION
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07/02/90 0 DISOBEYING ORDER FLORIDA STATE PRISON
10/05/90 30 DEST. OF ST. PROP. FLORIDA STATE PRISON
11/12/91 30 DISORDERLY CONDUCT FLORIDA STATE PRISON
06/15/92 0 DISRESP.TO OFFICIALS FLORIDA STATE PRISON
05/18/93 0 DISRESP.TO OFFICIALS FLORIDA STATE PRISON
08/01/93 0 DISOBEYING ORDER UNION C. I.
04/17/94 0 DEST. OF ST. PROP. UNION C.I.-MED.FAC.
Report Date: 04/09/04 EMC
Approved: 03/13/06 NRC
Huntington's disease (HD) results from genetically programmed degeneration of brain cells, called neurons, in certain areas of the brain. This degeneration causes uncontrolled movements, loss of intellectual faculties, and emotional disturbance. At this time, there is no way to stop or reverse the course of HD.