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Last NameFirst NamePictureDC NumberAgencyCase Summary
SmithersSamuel 124639CCRC-MCase Summary

Last Action

DateCourtCase NumberLast Action
12/3/2007FSC07-22583.851 appeal filed
5/8/2008FSC07-2258Initial brief filed
8/12/2008FSC07-2258Answer brief filed
2/5/2009FSC07-2258Oral Arguments held
7/9/2009FSC07-2258Denial of 3.851 Motion affirmed
7/20/2009FSC07-2258Motion for Rehearing filed
9/24/2009FSC07-2258Motion for rehearing denied
10/12/2009FSC07-2258Mandate issued
5/8/2008FSC08-868Habeas Petition filed
8/12/2008FSC08-868Response brief filed
2/5/2009FSC08-868Oral Arguments held
7/9/2009FSC08-868Habeas Petition denied
7/20/2009FSC08-868Motion for Rehearing filed
9/24/2009FSC08-868Motion for rehearing denied
10/28/2009USDC-M09-02200Habeas Petition filed
2/23/2010USDC-M09-02200Response filed
3/17/2010USDC-M09-02200Reply filed

Current Attorney


Last Updated

2008-01-09 11:43:13.0

Case Summary
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The Commission on Capital Cases updates thisinformation regularly.  This information, however, is subject to changeand may not reflect the latest status of an inmate’s case and should not berelied upon for statistical or legal purposes. 


SMITHERS, Samuel (M/W)

DC#    124639

DOB: 01/30/53


­­­Thirteenth Judicial Circuit, Hillsborough County, Case#96-8093

Sentencing Judge: The Honorable William Fuente

Attorney, Trial: Daniel M. Hernandez – Special PublicDefender

Attorney, Direct Appeal: Douglas S. Connor – AssistantPublic Defender

Attorneys, Collateral Appeals: Richard Kiley – CCRC-M


Date of Offense: 05/12/96, 05/28/96

Date of Sentence: 06/25/99


Circumstances of Offense:


Samuel Smithers was convicted and sentenced to death for themurders of Cristy Cowan and Denise Roach.


In 1995, Smithers made an agreement with Marion Whitehurst,who he had met through church, to maintain the lawn at her vacant Plant Cityhouse, which sat on 27 acres of land.  Whitehurst gave Smithers a key tothe gate but not one to the house.  In 1996, Smithers again agreed to takecare of the lawn at the Whitehurst’s vacant property.  On 05/28/96, Whitehurststopped by the Plant City house and found Smithers cleaning an axe on thecarport, which he said he had been using to cut down tree limbs.  She alsonoticed a pool of blood on the carport, which Smithers speculated might havebeen made by someone killing an animal.  Smithers told Whitehurst that hewould clean up the blood.


Whitehurst was disturbed by the blood and contacted thelocal Sheriff’s Department.  Later that evening, a deputy visited theWhitehurst’s property.  The pool of blood was gone, but the deputy noteddrag marks that went from the carport to one of the ponds on theproperty.  Upon arriving at the pond, the deputy found the body of CristyCowan floating in the water.  A dive team was called in and found the bodyof Denise Roach in the same pond.


Officers searched the Whitehurst residence and accumulatedevidence against the defendant.  They found a condom wrapper and a semenstain in one of the bedrooms.  Officers also found Smithers' fingerprintin the kitchen.  Using DNA testing, the blood in the carport was found tomatch Roach’s DNA.  Additionally, Smithers and Cowan were seen together ona convenience store security camera tape on the day of Cowan’s murder. The state also determined that both Cowan and Roach were prostitutes who workedthe same area, and Bonnie Kruse, another prostitute who worked that area,recognized Smithers as a previous customer.  Another prostitute claimedthat she gave Cowan a condom on the day that she disappeared, which was similarto the condom wrapper found inside the Whitehurst property.


Two detectives visited Smithers’ home.  Smithers agreedto go with them to the sheriff’s office for questioning and requested that hiswife join them.  At the conclusion of the interview, Smithers consented totake a polygraph test the next day.  According to the polygraph testresults, Smithers was not telling the truth.  A detective explained thisto Smithers and then Smithers made incriminating remarks about his involvementin the murders. Smithers again requested that his wife be present during thequestioning.  Smithers subsequently confessed to the killings of bothCristy Cowan and Denise Roach.


According to Smithers, he was mowing the grass on theWhitehurst property on 05/07/96 when Roach approached him.  Roachexplained that she had permission to be on the property.  On 05/13/96,Smithers said that Roach was still there, and he asked her to leave but sherefused.  Smithers told the officers that Roach hit him on the arm andthat he then hit her in the face.    Roach picked up a planteron the carport and threw it at his truck.  At this point, Smithers shovedher against a wall causing a piece of wood to fall off of a shelf and hit heron the head knocking her unconscious.  Smithers left the property butreturned the following day and moved her body to the pond.  According tothe medical examiner, Roach’s body was very decomposed and had probably been inthe water for seven to ten days.  She had 16 puncture wounds to her skull,fractures to her face and skull and injuries consistent with manualstrangulation.  The medical examiner also noted two large slits in Roach’sclothing caused by a sharp instrument.  The medical examiner determinedthat Roach died from the combination of strangulation, puncture wounds and blunttrauma to the head.


In regard to the Cowan murder, Smithers told police that hestopped to help a car that was pulled off to the side of the road.  Thedriver was Cowan.  Smithers drove her to a nearby convenience store. When they were getting back into Smithers’ vehicle, Cowan demanded money or shewould accuse him of rape.  He took Cowan to the Whitehurst residence andgave her all his money, but she was not pleased and threw a drink at him. Smithers reacted by picking up an axe and hitting Cowan in the head knockingher unconscious.  Smithers dragged her to the pond.  He was cleaningthe axe on the carport when Whitehurst arrived.  Smithers claimed that hecould hear Cowan making noise while he spoke with Whitehurst.  AfterWhitehurst left, Smithers returned to Cowan and hit her in the head again tomake her be quiet and threw tree limbs at her.  According to the medicalexaminer, Cowan had been dead a few hours when her body was found and hadprobably been alive when put in the water.  She had injuries to her eyeand lip.  In addition, Cowan sustained blunt trauma to her jaw and chopwounds to the top of her head and behind her ear.  Furthermore, Cowan hadinjuries consistent with manual strangulation.  The medical examiner determinedthat Cowan died from the combination of strangulation and chop wounds.


During the trial, Smithers offered a differenttestimony.  Smithers claimed that he lied to detectives because he fearedthat his family would be harmed.  According to this testimony, a girl by thename of Mimi was performing community service as a requirement of her probationat the church where Smithers was a deacon.  Mimi was not able to completeher hours and offered to have sex with Smithers if he would alter her communityservice hours, and Smithers agreed.  Several weeks later, Smithers wasapproached by an unknown man wanting to use the Whitehurst property as alocation for a drug deal in exchange for not revealing the deal that Smithersmade with Mimi.  Smithers agreed and allowed the unknown man to use theproperty.  He further testified that he witnessed the unidentified mankill Cowan and Roach.


Trial Summary:


06/12/96         Smithers was indicted on the following counts:

                                   Count I:           First-DegreeMurder

                                   Count II:         First-Degree Murder

12/18/98         Smithers was found guilty on all counts charged in the indictment.

01/24/99         Upon advisory sentencing, the jury, by a 12 to 0 majority, voted for the deathpenalty for each count of First-Degree Murder.

06/25/99         Smithers was sentenced as follows:

                                   Count I:          First-Degree Murder – Death

                                   Count II:         First-Degree Murder –Death


Appeals Summary:


Florida Supreme Court – Direct Appeal

FSC #96,690

826 So. 2d 916 (Fla. 2002)


10/06/99         Appeal filed.

05/16/02         FSC affirmed the convictions and sentences.

09/13/02         Rehearing denied.

09/13/02         Mandate issued.


United States Supreme Court – Petition for Writ ofCertiorari

USSC #02-8005

123 S. Ct. 1275 (U.S. 2003)


12/11/02         Petition filed.

02/24/03         Petition denied.


Circuit Court – 3.851 Motion

CC #96-8093


12/20/03         Motion filed.

04/07/06         Amended motion filed.

04/24/07         Evidentiary Hearing held.

10/26/07         Order denying amended motion entered.


Florida Supreme Court – 3.851 Appeal

FSC #07-2258

18 So.3d 460


12/03/07         Appeal filed.

02/05/09         Oral Argument held.

07/09/09         Denial of 3.851 Motion affirmed.

07/20/09         Motion for Rehearing filed.

09/24/09         Motion for Rehearing denied.

10/12/09         Mandate issued.


Florida Supreme Court – Petition for Writ of HabeasCorpus

FSC #08-868

18 So.3d 460


05/08/08         Habeas Petition filed.

02/05/09         Oral Argument held.

07/09/09         Petition denied.

07/20/09         Motion for Rehearing filed.

09/24/09         Motion for Rehearing denied.


United States District Court, Middle District –Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus

USDC# 09-02200



10/28/09         Habeas Petition filed.


Factors Contributing to the Delay in Execution ofSentence:


The Direct Appeal was pending for more than 2 years prior tobeing decided.


Case Information:


Smithers filed his Direct Appeal in the Florida SupremeCourt on 10/06/99.  The issues addressed included that the trial courterred in denying a motion to sever the two counts of First-Degree Murder, amotion to suppress his first confession, in finding that the Roach murder washeinous, atrocious and cruel and in finding that the Cowan murder was cold,calculated and premeditated.   The Florida Supreme Court did not finderrors that warranted reversing the conviction or sentence and affirmed theconviction and sentence on 05/16/02.  Rehearing was denied on09/13/02.  A mandate was issued on 09/13/02.


On 12/11/02, Smithers filed a Petition for Writ ofCertiorari in the United States Supreme Court.  The United States SupremeCourt denied the petition on 02/24/03.


Smithers filed a 3.850 Motion in the Circuit Court on12/20/03.  On 04/07/07, Smithers filed an amended motion in the CircuitCourt.  An evidentiary hearing was held on 04/24/07.  The orderdenying the amended motion to vacate judgment and sentence was entered on10/26/07.


On 12/03/07, Smithers filed a notice of appeal of theCircuit Court’s decision on his 3.851 motion.  On 02/05/09, Oral Argumentswere held.  The FSC affirmed the denied of the 3.851 motion on 07/09/09.On 07/20/09, Smithers filed a Motion for Rehearing. This Motion was denied on09/24/09. A mandate was issued on 10/12/09.


On 05/08/08, Smithers filed a Petition for Writ of HabeasCorpus in the Florida Supreme Court.  On 02/05/09, Oral Arguments wereheld.  This petition was denied on 07/09/09. On 07/20/09, Smithers filed aMotion for Rehearing. This Motion was denied on 09/24/09.


Smithers filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in theUnited States District Court, Middle District on 10/28/09. This petition iscurrently pending.


Institutional Adjustment:


DATE            DAYS             VIOLATION                                     LOCATION       

--------           ----                ----------------------------                ------------------- 

03/23/00         30                  POSS OFCONTRABAND               FSP




Report Date:    02/06/03          S.Q.

Approved:       02/28/03          W.S.

Updated:         02/02/10          EMJ