Bennie Eddie Demps

Executed June 7, 2000 by Lethal Injection in Florida

43rd murderer executed in U.S. in 2000
641st murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
3rd murderer executed in Florida in 2000
47th murderer executed in Florida since 1976

Since 1976
Date of Execution
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder-Execution)
Date of
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder)
Date of
Method of
to Murderer
Date of
Lethal Injection
Bennie Eddie Demps

B / M / 26 - 49

Alfred Sturgis
B / M / 23

Celia Puhlick
R.N. Brinkworth

with knife
Fellow Inmate

Demps, James Jackson and Harry Mungin were convicted of the September 7, 1976 stabbing death of Alfred Sturgis at Florida State Prison. Sturgis, serving a life term for murder and allegedly a "snitch," was found in his cell, bleeding from multiple stab wounds. While transported to the hospital, Sturgis told two guards in a "dying declaration" that fellow inmates Demps, Jackson and Mungin attacked him. Another inmate, Larry Hathaway, testified that Mungin was standing in the door of Sturgis' cell while Demps was holding Sturgis down and Jackson was stabbing him with a homemade knife. Demps, Jackson and Mungin were part of a group of inmates that named themselves "Perjury Incorporated," a prison gang that rooted out inmate informants.

At the time, Demps was serving a double life sentence for murdering two people in a Lake County orange grove in 1971. He was originally sentenced to death for the double homicide. Demps and Jackie Hardie reportedly had stolen a safe and taken it to the grove to try to open it. It was then that a local real estate agent showing land to a Connecticut couple seeking a retirement home stumbled upon the duo. The two robbers ordered all three of the victims into the trunk of a car and, when they tried to get out, Demps and Hardie opened fire, killing two of the victims (Celia and Nicholas Puhlick) and wounding the other, prosecutors said. The third victim, R.N. Brinkworth, survived and identified Demps and Hardie. Following the trial, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down Furman v. Georgia(1972), and the death sentences were commuted to life terms. The Sturgis murder, however, occurred just two months after Florida had reinstated the death penalty, giving prosecutors a chance to send Demps to death row again. Mungin and Jackson received life sentences. "He had poor timing," said Greg McMahon, chief of special prosecutions for the 8th Circuit District Attorney's Office. Hardie died in prison on January 26, 1999. Demps was one of 95 men and one woman who had their death sentences commuted to life in 1972.

Demps\Hardie v. State, 272 So.2d 803. (Fla. 1973) (Direct Appeal).
Demps v. State, 395 So.2d 501 (Fla. 1981) (Direct Appeal).

Internet Sources:

Florida Department of Corrections - Death Row


Bennie Demps, 49, is set to die on May 31 for the September 1976 murder of fellow inmate Alfred Sturgis at Florida State Prison near Starke. Before his death, Sturgis told an officer that Demps and another inmate held him down while a third inmate stabbed him. Demps' defense argued Friday that a letter from prison officials, who investigated Sturgis' death, did not implicate Demps in the attack. A defense motion requested Cates to grant a hearing on the information that would have postponed Demps' execution. The state had argued the information was not newly discovered or admissible. After Cates' denial, the case now heads to the Florida Supreme Court for review. Earlier this year, some prosecutors had projected that Demps' execution wouldn't be scheduled for years.

Demps was originally sentenced to death in 1978. Before Bush signed the recent warrant, Demps had survived 3 death warrants by getting last-minute appeals. Although set to die for Sturgis' death, Demps was originally condemned for the 1971 murders of R.N. Brinkworth and Celia Puhlick. They were fatally shot in a Lake County citrus grove. Celia Puhlick's husband, Nicholas, was wounded in the attack. The victims were inspecting some land for sale when they came across Demps. He had fled into the grove with a stolen safe. A year after being sent to death row, Demps was taken off after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against capital punishment. In 1976, Florida's new capital punishment law was upheld. Two months later Sturgis was stabbed. Demps was denied by the Florida Supreme Court 7-0 on June 5.

APBNews Online

"Twice-Convicted Killer Fighting Execution," by Robert Anthony Phillips.

(June 5, 2000) STARKE, Fla. ( -- Claims to Be Victim of Prison Frame-Up -- A convicted killer who dodged the electric chair when the Supreme Court overturned death penalty statutes in 1972 now has a new date with the executioner -- this time for taking part in the murder of an alleged prison snitch. But Bennie Demps, back on death row again since 1978 and scheduled to die by lethal injection June 7, isn't going quietly to the death chamber. He claims he is the victim of a prison frame-up and an unscrupulous prosecutor who withheld evidence. Demps also said a report from the Department of Corrections named another man as the inmate's only killer. Prosecutors are scoffing at his claims, noting that the courts have rejected all of his appeals and that all evidence points to him as one of the killers. Demps was scheduled to die Wednesday, but the Florida Supreme Court gave him a temporary stay of execution, until June 7 at 5 p.m. A hearing will be held Monday that will likely decide whether Demps lives or dies. His lawyers are asking the high court to order an evidentiary hearing on the basis of newly discovered evidence that they believe could help prove the condemned man's innocence.

Fingered by 'dying declaration'

Demps, James Jackson and Harry Mungin were convicted of the Sept. 7, 1976, stabbing death of Alfred Sturgis at Florida State Prison. Sturgis, serving a life term for murder, was found in his cell, bleeding from multiple stab wounds. Prosecutors and prison officials say that while he was being taken to the hospital, Sturgis told two guards in a "dying declaration" that fellow inmates Demps, Jackson and Mungin attacked him. Authorities believe that Demps and Mungin held Sturgis while Jackson repeatedly plunged a homemade prison knife into his chest. At the time, Demps was serving a double life sentence for murdering two people in Lake County. He was originally sentenced to death in the electric chair but had his sentence commuted to life when the U.S. Supreme Court found death penalty statutes unconstitutional. The Sturgis murder, however, occurred just two months after Florida had reinstated the death penalty, giving prosecutors a chance to send Demps to death row again. Mungin and Jackson received life sentences. "He had poor timing," said Greg McMahon, chief of special prosecutions for the 8th Circuit District Attorney's Office.

'Phase Two Death Watch'

In 1987, he had come within 13 hours of being executed -- his head and right leg had been shaved so that the electrodes for the electric chair could be taped to him. But a last-minute stay kept him alive. Gov. Jeb Bush signed the latest death warrant for Demps on April 24. It was the fourth time an order of execution had been signed ordering Demps' execution. Demps is now on so-called Phase Two Death Watch, confined to an isolation cell in Q Wing at Florida State Prison with the eyes of a correctional officer fixed on him, watching his every move, prison officials said. Prison officials said that Demps has been stripped of his personal property as he waits just a few steps from the execution chamber. Everything he owned while imprisoned during the last 30 years has been taken away, even a radio. When he wants a book, he must ask and one is handed through the bars to him. When he is done reading, he must pass it back to the guard.

Determined to avoid death house

While prosecutors have portrayed Demps as a violent triple killer who deserves a death sentence because he murdered before, Demps and his wife, Tracy, have gone on a campaign in recent months claiming he is the victim of a massive frame-up from a criminal justice system angry that he beat the electric chair once and now determined to make sure he doesn't avoid the death house again. Tracy Demps, a Canadian woman who said she married Demps in a 1999 death row ceremony, said she has sent out hundreds of letters across the United States looking for public attention to save her husband. She said only two people have responded. "I try not to think of time running out," she said.

Condemned man cites report Demps is basing most of his claims of innocence on a Sept. 7, 1976, report from Cecil L. Sewell, then the chief prison inspector and investigator. In the report, Sewell wrote that "before Sturgis died, he named James Jackson ... as his assailant." Sewell did not say in the report where he got the information or whether he spoke to the dying man. Demps and his wife say that the report was not given to his defense lawyer before his trial and was only discovered in 1998, forming the basis for his appeal. But the courts have refused to overturn Demps' conviction. Demps also said in a letter to the news media that another prison inmate, Larry Hathaway, testified against him at trial and has since "recanted." Demps claims that corrections officials and prosecutors promised Hathaway favors in return for fingering him. He also charges that Hathaway is mentally deranged and the Department of Corrections has withheld medical records that could cast doubt on his testimony. Demps also claims to have witnesses who say they saw Hathaway in a television room during Sturgis' attack, and that there is no physical evidence linking him to the murder. "For the last 20 years, we've turned up document after document that his case was manufactured," Tracy Demps said. "They had a case of a death row inmate whose case was overturned. He's a bit of a noisemaker and they wanted to eliminate him. To do that, they obviously had the murder of Alfred Sturgis and incorporate him into something he had nothing to do with."

Prosecutor suspended from bar

Tracy Demps also questions the character of the man who put her husband on death row, Thomas Elwell, a former Bradford County assistant district attorney. Elwell is currently suspended from practicing law for 18 months on charges that include filing non-meritorious claims, failure to exercise independent judgment and failure to provide competent representation, according to the Florida Bar Association (FBA). Elwell also was placed on emergency suspension in January 1997 for failure to properly safe-keep trust funds and maintain minimum trust accounting records, the FBA stated. The exact nature of the charges could not be immediately determined. Elwell, contacted by telephone in Gainesville, refused to comment on his prosecution of the Demps case or his suspensions from the Florida bar.

'Perjury Incorporated'

McMahon, who has handled post-conviction appeals for the state in the Demps case, believes that Demps, Jackson and Mungin were part of a group of inmates that named themselves "Perjury Incorporated," a prison gang that rooted out inmate informants. Demps was long viewed as a troublemaker by prison staffers, who once called him a leader among death row inmates. Internal corrections documents state that he had 14 disciplinary reports written against him between 1973 and 1977, including three for fighting and one for "scalding another inmate with hot water." But Tracy Demps said that her husband was labeled as a rabble-rouser and a troublemaker because he was sticking up for the rights of black inmates in a "racist" prison system, which, at the time, was plagued by violence. "My husband was in one of the worst prisons in the United States," she said. "Racism in America, particularly in the state of Florida, is rampant. At that time, he was construed as an instigator. All he had to do was gather black prisoners to be united in a front to be called an instigator. He was just someone who tried to get equal treatment and equal opportunities for black prisoners."

State: Report means nothing

Carolyn Snurkowski, an assistant deputy attorney general in charge of criminal appeals for the state, said the report indicating that Jackson was the lone assailant was a "preliminary" document and never meant to be the final report on Sturgis' murder. She said Sewell had no "personal knowledge" of Sturgis making the claim that it was only Jackson who attacked him and that the information was hearsay. Sturgis' claims that it was Demps, Jackson and Mungin who attacked and fatally wounded him was included in a follow-up report. Jackson and Mungin were serving prison terms for robbery at the time of the slaying. Doing most of the fingering was Hathaway, who told investigators that just before the stabbing, Mungin told him "we're fixing to kill a snitch." He told investigators that minutes later he saw the three men accost Sturgis. Snurkowski said that it was the jury who convicted the three men and ultimately decided to give Demps a death sentence and allow Jackson and Mungin to live out their lives in prison. Snurkowski, the state's top appeals prosecutor, said Sturgis' "dying declaration," along with Hathaway's testimony, was the key evidence that convinced a jury Demps was guilty of capital murder. She said one of the factors the jury considered in sentencing Demps to death was that he had killed before.

Previous murders bring death sentence Demps and Jackie Hardie were convicted in 1971 of murdering two people in an orange grove in Lake County. Demps and Hardie reportedly had stolen a safe and taken it to the grove to try to open it. It was then that a local real estate agent showing land to a Connecticut couple seeking a retirement home stumbled upon the duo. The two robbers ordered all three of the victims into the trunk of a car and, when they tried to get out, Demps and Hardie opened fire, killing two of the victims and wounding the other, prosecutors said. The third victim survived and identified Demps and Hardie. Hardie died in prison on Jan. 26, 1999. Demps was one of 95 men and one woman who had their death sentences commuted to life in 1972.

APBNews Online

"Florida Court Rejects Execution Appeal," by Robert Anthony Phillips.

(June 6, 2000) TALLAHASSEE, Fla. ( -- Killer Set to Die After 2nd Stay on Death Row -- The Florida Supreme Court today refused to stay the execution of convicted killer Bennie Demps, setting the stage for his death by lethal injection at 6 p.m. Wednesday. In a one-page order without comment, the state's highest court denied Demps a chance at an evidentiary hearing. Demps, sentenced to death for the 1976 murder of a fellow inmate, had asked the court to order a new evidentiary hearing so he could present new documents that he says prove his innocence. Demps, who had previously been sentenced to death for the murder of two people, had dodged the electric chair in 1972 when the Supreme Court overturned death penalty statutes across the United States. He was given a life term. Then, several months after Florida had written a new death penalty statute, prosecutors say that Demps was one of three men who took part in the stabbing murder of alleged prison snitch Alfred Sturgis at Florida State Prison. Demps was again sentenced to death for that crime.

A preliminary report?

Demps is basing most of his claims of innocence on a one-page report by a chief prison inspector who wrote, following the stabbing, that Sturgis had named James Jackson as the man who assaulted him. Jackson, Demps and Harry Mungin were convicted of murdering Sturgis. Mungin and Jackson, however, were given life prison terms. Prosecutors say that the original report naming Jackson as the sole assailant was preliminary. A full investigation revealed that Sturgis had made a "dying declaration" naming Demps, Jackson and Mungin as his attackers, prosecutors said. The fact that Demps had previously been convicted of two murders prompted the jury to hand him a death sentence, authorities say.

Jacksonville Sun

"Demps execution troubled; Inmate complains of bleeding while prepped," by Rich Tucker.

(June 8, 2000) STARKE -- Florida's third lethal injection procedure had complications yesterday that resulted in a 33-minute delay as the execution team at Florida State Prison struggled to insert intravenous needles into convicted murderer Bennie Demps. At the beginning of his final statement, just before he was executed, Demps said the prison team injured him several times. He asked his lawyer, George Schaefer, who was one of the witnesses at the execution, to demand an investigation of the proceeding. "Mr. Schaefer, they butchered me back there," Demps said as his voice trembled. "I was in a lot of pain."

An inmate scheduled to be executed by lethal injection typically has two intravenous needles inserted while he lies on a gurney. Witnesses are not permitted to view that portion of the procedure. Demps said the officials preparing him for execution first cut him in the groin and then cut his leg. He said he bled "profusely" as a result of the injuries, which he said were sutured closed. "They gave up putting the second IV in," he added. After the execution, Florida State Prison Warden James Crosby said the process had first been delayed because prison officials were awaiting confirmation that the U.S. Supreme Court had denied Demps' final request for a stay of execution. Crosby also said a "surgical procedure" was necessary to find a suitable vein to perform the lethal injection. He would not comment on Demps' accusation that he was injured repeatedly and treated improperly. Schaefer said he would call for an investigation of the execution.

Despite the delay, Demps, 49, was given a lethal dose of chemicals at 6:40 p.m. as the execution team carried out the death sentence for the 1976 murder of fellow inmate Alfred Sturgis. He has been incarcerated since his conviction in a 1971 double murder. Outside the Florida State Prison, Hannah Floyd (center) and Janice Figueroa weep at the anticipated moment of Bennie Demps' execution. Floyd has a husband on Death Row and Figueroa has a son facing execution. -- Stuart Tannehill/Staff Demps' eyes closed shortly after the chemicals were injected, and he appeared to stop breathing at 6:42 p.m. He was pronounced dead at 6:53.

Before the execution, Demps made a seven-minute statement in which he thanked his family, lawyers and religious adviser for their support while continuing to staunchly defend his innocence. "This is not an execution," he said. "This is murder." The 22-year Death Row veteran made a number of accusations during his statement. "I am an innocent man. They have knowingly fabricated evidence against me," he said. His speech also included a condemnation of Gov. Jeb Bush. "Gov. Bush, you have done what you said you would never do and that is kill an innocent man," he said. Lying on his back covered up to his chin with a white sheet, Demps appeared to become calm as he continued his statement. "I leave this world hating no man, with no malice toward anyone. I leave in peace."

A practicing Muslim for his final 10 years, Demps wore to his execution a white kufi on his head as a symbol of his faith. At the conclusion of his final statement, he spoke a short Muslim prayer. According to Department of Corrections spokeswoman Debra Buchanan, Demps spent part of yesterday morning with his wife Tracy whom he met by placing an advertisement on the Internet three years ago. The two were married in November. During one of the visiting periods, he was allowed to hug and kiss his wife. He was served a last meal of barbecue chicken and beef, french fries, salad, Spanish rice, rolls, cherry vanilla and butter pecan ice cream, a mango, banana pudding and Pepsi. He only ate half of the meal.

For Tracy Demps, yesterday was a day of waiting in prayer. In an interview hours before the execution, she said she had still not given up hope that a stay would be granted, though she admitted that the odds of such a reprieve appeared to be stacked high against her and her husband. Among those seeking a reprieve for her husband was Pope John Paul II, who sent a letter to Bush seeking clemency. Demps' wife said she has done extensive research on his case and has written letters on his behalf for his clemency petition and his appeals. "I've searched down almost every single judge and juror [connected to Demps' case]," she said. "I probably know more about this case than Bennie does." Tracy Demps said she felt fortunate for the times she has shared with her husband. "He was my greatest joy. And he remains my greatest strength short of my faith in my God," she said.

South Florida Committee Against the Death Penalty

"State’s Lethal Injection of Killer Turns Chaotic," by Phil Long and Steve Bousquet. (June 8, 2000)

STARKE, Fla.—Florida’s third death by lethal injection went awry Wednesday evening and was delayed for 33 minutes as technicians struggled to insert a lethal IV into the veins of a 49-year-old killer. When curtains between the death chamber and witnesses finally opened, the condemned man, Bennie Demps, who was strapped to a gurney, launched a seven-minute tirade: ``They butchered me back there. I was in a lot of pain. They cut me in the groin, they cut me in the leg. . . . This is not an execution, it is murder.’’ Eyes bulging and voice quavering, he said the medical examiner would find ``a wound on my leg that they sutured back up. I was bleeding profusely.’’

After Demps died, Florida State Prison Warden James Crosby said the delay was caused in part by the wait for final word from the U.S. Supreme Court and in part by the medical procedure. Demps’ attorney, George Schaefer, disputed that, saying the court had notified the warden by 5:30 p.m. Crosby refused to answer questions. A governor’s office spokesman later said that technicians had inserted one IV properly in Demps’ left arm, but had trouble finding a vein for a required ``alternate’’ IV. The state switched to lethal injection in February after a series of botched electrocutions and amid concern that the Florida Supreme Court or the U.S. Supreme Court might forbid use of the electric chair. On three occasions in the past 10 years, electrocutions had resulted in smoke, flames or bleeding.

Gov. Jeb Bush had turned aside last-minute pleas from death-penalty opponents, including one Wednesday from Pope John Paul II. Demps had dodged the electric chair for two 1971 killings but died for the stabbing death of a fellow inmate five years later. The ex-Marine died at 6:53 p.m. He was the 47th prisoner to be executed since the state resumed executions in 1979, and the fourth since Bush became governor 18 months ago.

Demps was the first inmate to die in a scheduled evening execution, after prison officials changed the time from 7 a.m. to make it easier on corrections department personnel. Opponents of the death penalty, and Demps himself, claimed that a report on the death of inmate Alfred Sturgis, missing for 22 years, raised serious questions about Demps’ guilt.

Anti-death penalty protesters held rallies in six cities across the state as Demps died. Members of the newly formed South Florida Committee Against the Death Penalty met on the steps of the Miami-Dade Courthouse in downtown Miami. Late Wednesday, the pope called on Bush to stop the execution. Through his representative in the United States, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, the pope appealed to the Catholic governor’s ``compassion and magnanimity.’’ But Bush, a convert to Catholicism in 1995, is a vocal supporter of the death penalty and has chided judges who he says are too protective of criminals’ rights. Last week, through his lawyers, Bush faulted the Florida Supreme Court for encouraging ``legal gamesmanship’’ that allows convicted killers to extend appeals, and their lives, for 15 years in some cases. Opponents say the 21 death sentences that have been overturned on appeal in Florida should be enough to make the state reconsider its death penalty record.

Demps spent more than half his 49 years on Death Row. He was originally sentenced to die for a 1971 double homicide, north of Orlando. Then 20, he and two accomplices accosted a Connecticut couple and an Orlando real estate agent who had seen them cracking open a stolen safe in an orange grove. All three—Celia and Nicholas Puhlick and salesman R.N. Brinkworth—were shot. Only Nicholas Puhlick survived. But a year after Demps got to Death Row, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional. Demps and 96 other condemned inmates had their sentences commuted to life.

Then in September 1976, just two months after the high court upheld Florida’s new death-penalty statute, Demps was accused of holding down Alfred Sturgis, a prison snitch, while another inmate, James Jackson, stabbed him to death. Said to be implicated by Sturgis’ dying words, Demps was again convicted of murder and sentenced to die. Demps’ lawyers said a memo by a prison inspector, found 22 years after the original trial, contradicted a guard’s testimony that Sturgis had named Demps. The Florida Supreme Court ruled Monday that the memo didn’t warrant a new trial.

(Source: Miami Herald)


"Bennie Demps - At Risk on Death Row," written by Supporters of Bennie Demps, with a letter by Demps.

Bennie Demps, on Florida's death row, is at risk of being executed for a crime he didn't commit. The urgency is that the execution is scheduled for May 31, 2000 unless something happens to stop it. At the time of this death warrant, Mr. Demps was waiting for a ruling that would allow for an evidentiary hearing based on previously concealed documents proving his innocence that surfaced. Governor Jeb Bush signed Mr. Demps' fourth death warrant knowing of his still pending appeal, and fully aware of the new evidence that exonerates him of the murder conviction. Now that such intense focus is on the failures of the death penalty in the United States, this is an opportunity to speak out not only for the moratorium, but to halt any execution of someone who claims to be innocent. If the two Bush Governors, Jeb and George, are not challenged for sending probably innocent people to death, we also have failed to protect the innocent.

Benny Demps has written a statement: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- MAY 2000.

My name is Bennie E. Demps, I am 49 years old, a deathrow prisoner, and am currently under deathwatch at the Florida State Prison, having had my 4th death warrant signed by Governor Bush on Monday April 24, 2000. I was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1976 of killing a fellow prisoner. Quite simply I am innocent of this crime and have spent the last 22 years accumulating the necessary evidence to prove that various Department of Correction prison officials -- in conjunction with an unscrupulous former Prosecutor named Thomas Elwell, indeed manufactured this case. The reason is that they perceived me as having "escaped" the death penalty when in June 1972, the US Supreme Court struck down the death penalty commuting my sentence to life. It is a fact that, in denying my appeals in this case, the Courts have often pointed this case as justification to execute me, blending the prior conviction with the current one to carry out what the Court stopped before. By basically telling me that the State did not get a chance to execute me then, it's "okay" for them to do it now, regardless of my innocence in this case. I would not have been sentenced to death without the prior conviction. The proof of this is in the disparity in sentencing between me and my two codefendants who both received life.

I use the word manufactured because I was not involved in this murder but when prison officials saw the opportunity, they manipulated and rewrote this case to include me. They bought and paid for everything, concealed exculpatory evidence, "lost or misplaced" critical files that I had discovered would have proved my innocence at the time of trial. They made and delivered promises and rewards to prisoners and guards who aided in this conviction. The proof of this has come in the form of many prisoners coming forward, issuing affidavits admitting their part in getting me convicted. But because this evidence was discovered so many years after my trial the Courts have consistently ruled on one issue -- the evidence is procedurally and time barred, claiming you are just too late to present proof of your innocence! We discovered reams of documents about the "so-called star inmate witness" Larry Hathaway that proves beyond all doubt that he was then and continues to be today crazy! This is not opinion -- we have the DOC medical records to prove it and how they knew he was on psycothropic medication and they used him anyway, but withheld that fact from us. In 1998 while going through a Clemency investigation my attorney, Bill Salmon, received 2000-3000 pages of documents from the State. Among them was a one-page document that had been concealed for the last 21 years and withheld from all my attorneys from the time of trial throughout the 22 years of this case. It is an official Department of Corrections memo written by the Chief Prison Inspector Cecil L. Sewell to the then Secretary of the Department of Corrections Louie Wainwright. It was written Sept. 7, 1976, the day after the murder of this prisoner and clearly states that the victim in his dying declaration named a single person and *not* Bennie Demps!

The fact that this document was previously concealed and withheld from us during trial and throughout the appellate process and the fact that it does not name me as the killer became the basis for my 4th motion for post conviction relief filed in the Bradford County Circuit Court in July 1999. My attorney then filed a Supplement to the motion highlighting three affidavits by the representing attorneys involved at trial affirming that they had never seen the document and all stated they repeatedly sought exculpatory evidence and were repeatedly told nothing existed. This fact is in the trial record. In October 1999, the Judge felt there was merit to my motion and ordered the State to respond by January 15, 2000 and to explain why I was not entitled to the relief I am seeking. Their response was empty, they provided no explanation for anything, simply a rehash of old responses put forth by the State in past appeals. My attorney then filed one more Supplement on April 13, 2000, and with it his own affidavit of how and when he came by the document. We were waiting for the Judge to rule, hoping he would order an evidentiary hearing so that the truth could finally be told. The Governor of the State of Florida, in spite of this pending appeal based on factual innocence, in spite of his promises of Clemency being the catch net for innocence," in spite of the fact that the former Governor Lawton Chiles felt the this case needed more investigation, simply rushed to judgment and prematurely signed my 4th death warrant while I still had an appeal pending. I have since learned that the Bradford County Circuit Court Judge found merit in my claims and has ordered an evidentiary hearing, set for Friday May 12, 2000.

In 1981 the Florida Supreme Court said in its denial of my initial appeal that I had no proof that the State withheld any critical documents, yet suddenly here we are 22 years after the fact while going through the Clemency proceedings, my attorney unearths "proof" from the State files! This document should have been provided to my attorneys at the time of trial and the jury should have been allowed to see it. Had the jury been allowed to see the document it would surely have been a great influence to them considering that the first time they had a hung decision. The State should not be able to obtain a conviction where it can be clearly demonstrated that it was obtained by withholding exculpatory evidence and covered up deals made for testimony. The Court seems to want to excuse the State's behavior in my case by saying over and over to me that the issues are procedurally barred. It was incumbent upon the State to provide my attorneys with any and all information that was exculpatory and yet all these years they have benefited from having it procedurally barred.

There was NO physical evidence of any kind implicating me in this crime. I have proven that the Prosecutor withheld critical exculpatory evidence at the time of trial and if presented in a Court of law today in its entirety, would result in a different verdict. I have proven that the Prosecutor concealed the fact that deals were made by prison officials with many prisoners in exchange for their help in manipulating the facts of this case to obtain a conviction. I have offered as evidence the affidavits depositions or both of those same prisoners who came forward to admit to their complicity and involvement with the named Department of Correction officials. I have proven that the "dying declaration" to officer Rhoden was untrue and that the victim did NOT name me as his assailant. By their own hand and document -- this Chief Prison Inspectors Report -- they provide the proof that the Florida Supreme Court said I did not have. The fact that this newly discovered document is in our hands now for the first time in 22 years demonstrates how easily capable the State is of withholding and concealing evidence, and of manipulating the facts of this case.

The Chicago Tribune recently did an investigative series of articles on Prosecutors withholding and hiding evidence. It is not improbable nor impossible that former Prosecutor Thomas Elwell had done the same to me in this case. In fact there is more than ample evidence that the State has indeed done that. What I seek is publicity and investigation of my case and I am asking the Court to not to turn a blind eye to the allegations I raised in my appeal. I am entitled to a full and fair hearing, as I have raised strong claims and evidence of innocence. I am asking for nothing more than any man who is innocent and can prove it. Our system of justice is predicated on certain fundamental guarantees that are designed to protect us all and to prevent the abuse of legal procedures in any judicial proceeding. In a case where a person is faced with the sentence of death, these fundamental rights must be in place. I leave you with the question: if there is no statute of limitations put on charging someone with murder, why then should there be time limit put on someone seeking to prove innocence, when it can so clearly be documented?

If you want to discuss this case with me please contact the Florida State Prison 904-368-2500 for an appointment to interview me as they must provide me media access under deathwatch. Thank you for your time and please help before it's to late.

Bennie E. Demps 030970-Q2101
PO Box 181
Starke Florida 32091

Lawyer Bill Salmon, Gainesville

Update on Bennie Demps

Bennie Demps scheduled for execution on May 31st has received a one week stay. On May 27, 2000, the Florida Supreme Court announced that it will delay the execution of Bennie Demps to give his attorneys time to complete a final appeal. Bennie's attorney, Bill Salmon asked for an extension on Thursday, saying that due to a family illness (his wife just had lung surgery) he would not been able to complete his brief by the May 27 deadline. The day of the deadline, the justices agreed to give Mr. Salmon and co-counsel George F. Schaefer until June 1, 2000 to submit the paperwork. Unless the court issues another delay or overturns Bennie's sentence, Bennie could now be executed as early as 5 p.m. June 7.

(Source: Associated Press)

Citizens United for Alternatives to the Death Penalty

Prisoner Profile - Bennie Demps, #030970-Q2101, P. O. Box 181, Starke, Florida 32091.

Mr. Demps was convicted and sentenced to death in 1976 for a murder of another prison inmate by the name of Alfred Sturgis. One single document which has been lying around for over 21 years CLEARLY states that in inmate Sturgis dying statement that ONE person was named as his attacker. It was NOT Bennie Demps. Mr. Demps says this. "various Department of Correction prison officials - in conjunction with an unscrupulous former Prosecutor named Thomas Elwell, did indeed manufacture this case." "They made and delivered promises and rewards to all who aided in this conviction, be they prisoners or a guard. The proof of such has come in the form of many prisoners coming forward, issuing affidavits admitting their part in getting that conviction." Mr. Demps has an execution date of May 31st 2,000...Please help him NOW......

Lawyer - Bill Salmon; Tracy Demps; The Innocence Watch Group, Sissel England.

Gainesville Sun

"Murderer Proclaims Innocence," by Tim Lockette. (Wednesday, June 7, 2000)

Bennie Demps once wagered $1 on whether he would live or die. When he was convicted of capital murder in the 1976 death of prison inmate Alfred Sturgis, Demps told his lawyer he was sure he'd get the death penalty. So sure, he'd bet a dollar on it. When Circuit Judge Wayne Carlisle handed down his death sentence, Demps turned to his lawyer with a wink and a smile. A photographer caught the expression, and from then on, he was known as the "Smiling Killer."

Demps gambled again Tuesday, ignoring the advice of his lawyers and holding a news conference on the eve of his scheduled execution. Demps is scheduled to die by lethal injection for Sturgis' death at 6 p.m. today -- 22 years after his sentence was handed down -- unless the U.S. Supreme Court grants him a stay of execution. "This is my last chance," Demps told a crowd of newspaper and TV reporters Tuesday at Florida State Prison in Bradford County. Demps was already in prison for double murder in 1976 when Sturgis, a 23-year-old serving a life sentence, was discovered wounded and bleeding in his cell. Sturgis died, and a correctional officer testified that Sturgis said Demps and another inmate held him down while a third inmate stabbed him. Demps was tried for the Sturgis killing in 1978. With his previous two murder convictions as aggravating factors, he was sentenced to death in the case. The other two inmates received life sentences.

Demps says that a prison memo written the day after Sturgis' death should be enough evidence to overturn his conviction. The memo, written by a prison official after a preliminary investigation, states that Sturgis named one of his attackers before he died. Demps isn't named in the memo. "They had all the information right there," Demps said. "They had every reason to include me, if he had mentioned me. But they didn't." Demps claims prison officials named him in the case because of his political beliefs. "I had been identified as a black militant who wanted to change the prison system," he said.

The state Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday to reject an appeal based on the memo. Attorneys for Demps filed an appeal for a stay of execution with the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, but they acknowledge that stays from the Supreme Court are uncommon. "Looking at it from a statistical standpoint, it's very rare for the Supreme Court to offer a stay in this type of case," said George Schaefer, one of Demps' attorneys.

The history of Demps' Death Row convictions is as long and full of reversals as the plot of a Victorian novel. Demps was sentenced to death in 1971 after his convictions for the murders of R.N. Brinkworth and Celia Puhlick, fatally shot in a Lake County citrus grove as they inspected some land for sale. Demps, who had fled to the grove with a stolen safe, locked Brinkworth, Puhlick and another person in the trunk of a car and fired a rifle into the trunk. His sentence was commuted to life in prison when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional. By the time he was convicted in the murder of Sturgis, Florida once again had an electric chair. He was scheduled to be executed in 1982, 1987 and 1990, but each time he was granted a stay. He scheduled a press conference the day before his scheduled 1987 execution date, but canceled it at the last minute, saying that his lawyers had advised that speaking to the press would interfere with his appeal.

Demps said he held Tuesday's news conference against the advice of his attorneys. "Only a miracle from God can save me now," Demps said. Asked whether he felt remorse for the 1971 double murder that brought him his first death sentence, Demps said he would make no comment on the case. But later, Demps accused the state of using the Sturgis case to make up for the loss of Demps' earlier death sentence. "They can't get a free execution," he said. "This isn't Monopoly. In Monopoly, you get a 'Get out of jail free' card, and the state wants a 'free execution card.' "

Demps, a Vietnam veteran, converted to Islam 10 years ago. Six months ago, he said, he married a woman who corresponded with him by mail for three years. He declined to give her name, citing privacy concerns. He said he is no longer interested in reform of the prison system. "I don't want to talk about conditions on Death Row," he said. Asked if he was ready to face execution, Demps dismissed the question as absurd. "What is this, 'Am I ready to die?' " he said. "I think no man is ready to die."

Demps\Hardie v. State, 272 So.2d 803. (Fla. 1973) (Direct Appeal).

PER CURIAM. - We are here reviewing the consolidated cases in which each of the two appellants was convicted of two counts of first degree murder. Each received two sentences of death by electrocution. Subsequent to their convictions, the Supreme Court of the United States decided the case of Furman v. Georgia, and upon authority of the Furman case, this Court, in Case No. 42,789, reported as Anderson et al. v. State, reduced the penalties imposed against these appellants to life imprisonment, this being currently the maximum penalty for these particular criminal acts.

A careful examination of the record shows conclusively that the appellants herein are fully deserving of the most severe punishment permitted by law. The appellants at gunpoint entered and seized an automobile from an elderly man whom they robbed. They entered a private home, removing a safe, camera and weapons. While appellants were opening the safe in an orange grove, two men and a woman appeared who happened to be in the area inspecting real estate. These people were accosted by the appellants at gunpoint. The victims were robbed of several hundred dollars. The woman was shot wholly without reason or provocation and the dying woman, along with the two men, were compelled to climb into the trunk of an automobile. They were shot several times by the appellants with the full intention of killing them and with full premeditation. The victims offered no defense and the record reflects absolutely no justification for these crimes.

The appellants left Florida in the stolen automobile, and were apprehended in the State of New Jersey by a highway patrolman for speeding. When the patrolman requested proof of ownership of the car, appellant Demps first pretended to search inside the vehicle and then at the suggestion of the officer, opened the trunk searching for a certificate or other paper showing their right to possession and control of the vehicle. At that time the officer observed an automatic weapon in the trunk of the automobile and simultaneously a third passenger in the car dropped a pistol to the ground. Whereupon the appellants were arrested for possession of the automatic weapon prohibited by New Jersey law. The Court properly found that there was no violation of the constitutional protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

Appellants also complain that they did not receive a proper psychiatric examination. The record is abundantly clear that the parties were afforded psychiatric examinations pursuant to order of the Court. We find said objection without foundation. Accordingly, the convictions and two sentences imposed upon each appellant, as modified to terms of life imprisonment, are affirmed. It is so ordered. - END OF DOCUMENT

Demps v. State, 395 So.2d 501 (Fla. 1981) (Direct Appeal).

PER CURIAM. - This case is properly before us on direct appeal from the Circuit Court for the Eighth Judicial Circuit. Appellant Demps was convicted and sentenced to death for the slaying of Alfred Sturgis. Appellant's codefendants, Harry Mungin and James Jackson, were convicted of first-degree murder but sentenced to life imprisonment for the same offense. For the following reasons we affirm the conviction and sentence.

On September 6, 1976, personnel at the Florida State Prison discovered inmate Alfred Sturgis in a cell, bleeding profusely from stab wounds. He was rushed first to the hospital at Union Correctional Institute, then to the state prison at Lake Butler. Due to inadequate facilities at both institutions, Sturgis was taken to Shands Teaching Hospital in Gainesville, where he died soon after arrival.

A grand jury indicted inmates Bennie Demps, James Jackson and Harry Mungin for the murder of Alfred Sturgis. In the course of preliminary depositions, defense counsel learned that while en route to the hospital, Sturgis told correctional officer A. V. Rhoden that appellant, Jackson and Mungin had committed the knifing. Rhoden later reduced the statement to writing and included it in a report filed with R. K. Griffis, a Department of Corrections investigator. After defense requests to produce the written document, the state informed the court that Mr. Griffis had misplaced Rhoden's statement. In a pretrial hearing the court refused to dismiss the indictment based on the state's failure to produce Rhoden's report.

At trial Mr. Rhoden explained to the jury what Sturgis had told him in the ambulance:
Q (Mr. Elwell) All right. What happened after that?
A He (Sturgis) reached up and took my hand and ...
Q Were you standing up, Mr. Rhoden?
A Yes, sir. Q And would you indicate how he reached up and took your hand?
A He just reached his hand up, picked his arm up, it was laying down on the stretcher, and he just picked it up and taken my hand.
Q And did you note anything about his appearance in addition to what you just testified to?
A He was chalky looking.
Q All right.
A His eyes was rolling back and forth in his head.
Q And other than grabbing your hand, did he do anything else?
A Yes, sir. He told me, he said: "Mr. Rhoden, you got to help me. I don't believe I'm going to make it." And I said: "You got to, Sturgis." He said: "I don't think I will." I said, "You got to, you got to help me get the ones that done it." And he said: "Well, you have to get them for me."
Q Did he say anything else?
A Yes, sir, he said: "You have to get Mungin and Demps, they held me and Jackson stabbed me." I asked him, "Which Jackson?" And he said: "Toothless Jackson."
Q How long did this statement take, from the time that he grabbed your hand and said: "Mr. Rhoden, I don't believe I'm going to make it." until he finished; how long did that statement take?
A Just a very short time.
Q Were there any interruptions by any person during the giving of that statement to you?
A No, sir.

Another witness for the prosecution, fellow inmate Larry Hathaway, testified that while walking past Harry Mungin's cell on the afternoon of the murder, Mungin told him to go downstairs and stay there, because Mungin "was fixing to get rid of a snitch." He followed Mungin's suggestion but returned a short while later, at which time he noticed a struggle going on in the cell in which Sturgis was later found. Mungin was standing in the door of the cell; inside, Hathaway could see appellant holding Sturgis down on the bed while Jackson struck him with downward thrusts. Upon seeing this, Hathaway quickly left the scene. Defense counsel sought to impeach Hathaway's testimony by showing that Hathaway was a homosexual, on the premise that Hathaway implicated the codefendants in exchange for a transfer to the prison where his lover, Robert Ziegler, resided. The trial court held that Hathaway's homosexuality was inflammatory and irrelevant and limited questioning to whether Ziegler and Hathaway were "real good friends."

At the sentencing phase the jury recommended sentences of life imprisonment for Mungin and death for Jackson and appellant. The trial judge sentenced Mungin and Jackson to life, but sentenced appellant to death.