Two images of James Dailey, including one during his time in the Air Force and his mug shot from the Florida Department of Corrections. (COURTESY DAILEY FAMILY AND FDOC)

Public support of clemency hearing urged

ORLANDO | Although he has spent 32 years on Florida’s death row, James Dailey’s case has gotten much press across the nation.

What hasn’t changed is James Dailey’s conviction that his death by lethal injection would be the murder of an innocent man. And recent information — including a signed confession by another man — has led advocates for his case to urge the general public to send Gov. Ron DeSantis a strong message — grant a clemency hearing.

Dailey was convicted in 1987 of the 1985 murder of 14-year-old Shelly Boggio in Pinellas County. The 73-year-old military veteran who served in Vietnam was scheduled to be executed Nov. 7.

Florida’s Catholic bishops are among those advocates who are urging for a clemency hearing. On Oct. 23, 2019, Archbishop Thomas Wenski and Bishop Felipe Estevez wrote a letter to the governor asking for a stay of execution. The courts did grant a stay, but it expired Dec. 30, 2019.

At press time, DeSantis has not done anything to renew the death warrant. However, Florida’s bishops and the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops are now urging the governor to grant a clemency, and asking local Catholics to lend their own voices in that effort.

While Catholic bishops have long fought to stop death warrants, there is added concern with Dailey’s case, which has gained national attention because of evidence that could exonerate him of the crime. Jack Pearcy, who was a housemate of Dailey’s at the time of the crime, was sentenced to life in prison because of his part in the murder. Prosecutors of the case said both men were involved in the murder, with Pearcy pinning the responsibility on Dailey in return of life in prison.

But since that time, Pearcy has recanted, and on Dec. 18, 2019, Pearcy voluntarily signed a declaration attesting to the fact that he alone committed the crime for which Dailey faces execution and that Dailey was not involved in any way. This is at least the fifth time Pearcy has confessed to being solely responsible for the crime.

According to Dailey’s attorney’s, Pearcy’s statement was more specific than any he has previously made and it reads: “James Dailey had nothing to do with the murder of Shelly Boggio. I committed the crime alone. James Dailey was back at the house when I drove Shelly Boggio to the place where I ultimately killed her.”

Along with Catholic bishops, advocates for Dailey’s exoneration include the Innocence Project, former death row inmates who have been exonerated, and the New York Times and Pro Publica, which published an exhausted account of the case and new evidence available, including information about Paul Skalnik, a “jailhouse snitch” who testified again and again, helping to send dozens of people to prison and four, including Dailey, to death row.

The Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops offers a link to send messages directly to the governor urging for a clemency hearing. Visit flaccb.org/flcan-take-action and click on the first link.

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