ST. PETERSBURG (CBSMiami/AP) – On Florida’s death row for more than three decades, a twice-convicted murderer is scheduled to be executed this week for the rape and murder of a St. Petersburg woman.
If 65-year-old Robert Waterhouse is executed Wednesday at Florida State Prison near Starke, he will have lingered on death row longer than any of the previous 276 people executed by the state, according to the Department of Corrections. He’s spent more than 31 years mostly by himself in a 6-by-9-foot cell as his various appeals worked their way through the courts.
Just 18 of the 395 people currently on death row have been there longer than Waterhouse, who was sentenced in September 1980 for raping and killing 29-year-old Deborah Kammerer.
No one in Gov. Rick Scott’s office would talk in detail about the process that led him to pick Waterhouse over others whose appeals have run their course.
“Governor Scott takes his legal duty to sign death warrants very seriously and is committed to following the law in as thoughtful and deliberative a manner as possible. There are many factors that bear upon the governor’s decision each time he must choose to sign a death warrant, which is always on a case-by-case basis,” his aides said in a statement.
Others familiar with the process say that because many condemned inmates’ cases are in various stages of appeal and new litigation is filed all the time, there is never a clear choice for the governor.
Craig Trocino, who handled death row appeals for years before going to work for a University of Miami law school clinic, said the “incredibly secretive” nature of the governor’s selection process has always disturbed death penalty opponents.
“There was no logic to any it, as far as we could tell, and nobody was speaking about it,” Trocino said. “If it’s really above-board, the governor would open his book and say ‘This is the procedure I take in determining this.'”
University of Florida law professor George R. “Bob” Dekle, a former prosecutor who sent notorious serial killer Ted Bundy to death row, said Florida governors have rarely been forthcoming about the reasons they select one inmate over all the others for execution.
Time appears to be running out for Waterhouse, whose latest appeal to the Florida Supreme Court was denied Wednesday. Federal appeals are expected to be mounted as his execution approaches.
The body of Waterhouse’s victim was found washed up on the tidal flats of Tampa Bay on Jan. 3, 1980. She’d been raped, beaten and dragged into the surf, where she drowned.
Unable to identify her immediately, police turned to the public for help. Neighbors identified Kammerer’s body, and an anonymous tipster led police to Waterhouse, who was on parole for a New York killing. He had pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for killing a 77-year-old Long Island woman during a 1966 burglary. He was sentenced to life but was paroled after eight years.
In the Kammerer case, a bartender had seen her and Waterhouse leave a St. Petersburg bar together. Blood, hair and fibers in Waterhouse’s car were linked to the victim. Waterhouse admitted having sex with Kammerer but denied killing her.
One of Kammerer’s daughters told the Tampa Bay Times that she didn’t know yet if she or any of her siblings will come to Florida to witness the execution.
“It’s long overdue,” said Wendy Mistry, 43, who lives near Dallas. “We didn’t forget about it, but we put it in the back of our minds. You don’t really ever forget.”
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