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)

DC# 112232

DOB: 09/04/57


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


Trial Summary:


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


Appeal Summary:


Florida Supreme Court – Direct Appeal

FSC# 72,711

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

CC# 87-1347


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

FSC# SC01-2149

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

FSC# 02-1300

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

USSC #05-12235

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

USDC #07-cv-00006


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

USCA# 10-13095


06/29/10          Appeal filed

11/01/10          COA denied


Circuit Court – 3.851 Motion

CC# 87-1347


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. 


Case Information:


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.


Institutional Adjustment:




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