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Court overturns man's death sentence in Seminole County double homicide

Clemente Javier Aguirre sentenced to death for two murders will get new trial


A Honduran man on death row for a double murder in Seminole County will get a new trial based on new evidence, the Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

Clemente Javier Aguirre-Jarquin was convicted and sentenced to death in 2006 for the 2004 murders of Cheryl Williams, 47, and Carol Bareis, 68, both of whom were stabbed to death in their home.

The victims, a mother and daughter, who lived in a mobile home next door to Aguirre.

Aguirre, an undocumented immigrant from Honduras, initially told authorities that he didn't know anything about the murders because he was in the U.S. illegally and didn't want to be deported.

He asked to talk to police again on the day he was initially questioned and said he found the bodies when he went into a home to get a beer, according to the Innocence Project of New York.

During Aguirre’s trial, the jury recommended a death sentence for Williams' murder on a 7-5 vote and a 9-3 vote for Bareis' murder.

The court sentenced Aguirre to two death sentences with the jury’s recommendations and life in prison on a burglary conviction.

Aguirre filed a post-conviction appeal in 2014, claiming that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate other suspects, including Samantha Williams, the daughter of Cheryl Williams, and additional DNA evidence.

Justices said DNA tested after the trial showed that Samantha Williams' blood was at the scene where her mother and grandmother were found in 2004.

In his appeal to the Seminole County Circuit Court, Aguirre claimed that Samantha Williams confessed to killing her mother and grandmother. The court ruled Samantha Williams’ statements inadmissible because they were made to a third party.

The Supreme Court on Thursday overruled the circuit court’s denial of Aguirre’s post-conviction motions, making way for a new trial.

News 6 spoke to Aguirre's lawyer Maria DeLiberato, with Capital Collateral Regional Counsel about the Court's decision  on Thursday.

The Capital Collateral Regional Counsel took on Aguirre's case in 2009 and received support from the Innocence Project of New York.

The number of officials and lawyers who backed the homicide case for a re-trial speaks to the significance of his case, DeLiberato said.

DeLiberato said she hadn't spoken with her client since the ruling, because of communication regulations in prison, but will tomorrow and assumes he has heard the good news.

The Florida Supreme Court on Oct. 14 ruled that a death sentence requires a unanimous jury vote, striking down a newly enacted law allowing a defendant to be sentenced to death if 10 out of 12 jurors recommend it.

The U.S. Supreme Court in January declared Florida's death penalty sentencing law unconstitutional. State legislators responded by overhauling the law.

There are 386 inmates on Florida’s death row, according to the Florida Department of Corrections.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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