WEST PALM BEACH — After 32 years, convicted murderer Paul Scott on Monday finally got the chance to tell a judge about the powers that he says have conspired to keep him on Death Row.
The 55-year-old, who was sentenced to death for the 1978 bludgeoning death of Boca Raton florist James Alessi, was given the rare opportunity to leave the state's most secure prison to appear in court to explain why he wanted a new attorney.
Strapped in leg-irons with handcuffs tightly binding his wrists, he insisted he was innocent.
"I did not kill Mr. Alessi. I did not help kill Mr. Alessi. I was not there when Mr. Alessi was killed," Scott said as four supporters looked on, weeping. "Where is justice in this state? I've got 32 years for a murder I didn't do."
Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Richard Oftedal tried to keep Scott from rehashing the crime, one of the bloodiest in county history. He tried to keep him from detailing his contention that his co-defendant, Richard Kondian, delivered the fatal blows.
But an emotional Scott insisted that former Gov. Jeb Bush cut a deal with those who were trying to prove his innocence. "If I continued to pursue appeals, I was going to be executed," he said.
The deal, he said, has prevented his current attorney, Stephen Finta, from vigorously defending him. "I believe this man to be an honorable attorney, but I feel he became afraid," Scott said.
Finta declined to say whether the alleged deal made him timid. But, in a 2010 letter to the now-defunct Florida Commission on Capital Cases, Finta wrote: "I was told by an attorney in West Palm Beach, Mark Wilensky, that there was an agreement with the state to not press for another death warrant if the defendant's counsel did not try to reopen the liability phase of the case."
Reached later, Wilensky declined comment.
Instead of addressing Scott's allegations, Finta told Oftedal that Scott refuses his advice. With an IQ of 69 and a host of psychological ills, Scott could try to block his execution by arguing that the state can't kill the disabled. Scott refuses.
Other attorneys have said it's difficult representing Scott because he won't accept a life sentence. Kondian pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, was sentenced to 45 years and was out in 14.
Many attorneys have said that the disparate sentences the two received is troubling. Longtime supporters from a Pennsylvania church, who attended the hearing, said Scott's death sentence is unjust.
Jane Bunch, said both men killed her brother. Reached after the hearing, she said her parents accepted Kondian's plea because he was 18 and had no criminal record. Scott, who was 22, was on parole for a California murder.
"They hurt my brother. They tortured my brother and it was planned," Bunch said. "He's a murderer. He should be executed."
Oftedal said he would rule soon on whether Scott will get a new attorney.