More than 27 years after three employees of a Southwest Florida Cracker Barrel restaurant were murdered during a robbery, a federal appeals court has rejected a Death Row inmate’s appeal in the slayings.
A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday issued a 38-page decision turning down arguments by Brandy Bain Jennings, who was convicted in the high-profile case.
Jennings, a former employee of the Naples restaurant, and another man were accused of killing Dorothy Siddle, Vicki Smith, and Jason Wiggins, who were found in a freezer with their throats slashed in November 1995, according to the decision.
Jennings, now 53, was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder and robbery and sentenced to death.
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In the appeal, he contended that he had received ineffective legal representation before being sentenced to death, at least in part because his attorney did not “adequately investigate and present mitigation evidence related to his childhood and background,” Tuesday’s decision said.
But the appeals court panel rejected the argument and backed rulings by the Florida Supreme Court and a federal district court.
“Given the facts of this case, it was not unreasonable for the state court to conclude that Jennings was not prejudiced by counsel’s failure to present the mitigation evidence in question during the penalty phase,” said the decision, written by Judge Elizabeth Branch and joined by Judges Adalberto Jordan and Andrew Brasher.