Widow concerned as US Supreme Court reviews death penalty

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FORT MYERS, Fla. – The widow of a Fort Myers attorney buried alive 13 years ago is worried her husband’s killer won’t be put to death.

Mary Lehmann’s concerns come one day before the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments about Florida’s death penalty.

At least eight inmates from Southwest Florida sit on death row. They were all sentenced by a judge who ultimately decided their fate after being convicted of murder.

One of those inmates is Mark Twilegar, convicted in the murder of David Thomas. In 2002, investigators discovered Thomas’ body in his backyard after he had been shot and then buried alive.

“The idea that he would go free, or spend life in jail rather than punished the way I think he should be, breaks my heart and it makes me almost physically sick to think about it,” said Lehmann, Thomas’ widow. She says she thinks the death penalty is a fair punishment.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether the way Florida decides who gets the death penalty is unconstitutional. In Florida, juries only need a majority, not a unanimous vote, to recommend death.

“I’m not sure what the purpose of having a trial and a sentence is if, ‘oh by the way, this doesn’t count anymore,'” said Lehman.

The death penalty case has put the trial for one of Collier County’s most gruesome murders on hold. Last month, a judge decided to see what the Supreme Court rules before Mesac Damas goes before a jury. Hamas is accused of slaughtering his wife and five children in their home six years ago.

Even though arguments will begin, the Supreme Court is not expected to make a decision until next year.

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