Mark Sievers and his defense team are fighting for a new trial after he was sentenced to death in 2020 for orchestrating the murder of his wife Dr. Teresa Sievers.
On Tuesday, the Florida Supreme Court heard arguments from prosecutors and Sievers’ attorney.
Mark Sievers was not present for the hearing. He is on death row at Raiford Prison in Bradford County.
Sievers’ attorney Karen Kinney got right to her point, calling Curtis Wayne Wright a bad witness. She also said this case should never have been a death penalty case.
Wright was Sievers’ best friend and the man Sievers hired, along with Jimmy Rodgers, to kill Dr. Sievers in an ambush after she returned home from a family vacation in Connecticut.
Wright was offered a 25-year sentence in exchange for his testimony tying Sievers and Rodgers to the crime.
Kinney told justices there was plenty of evidence to tie Wright and Rodgers to the doctor’s death but nothing to tie Sievers to the crime.
“Without Curtis Wright’s testimony, the state has no evidence Sievers was involved in this murder,” Kinney said.
Kinney argued Wright was biased against Sievers because of the plea deal granted to him.
During the hearing, there was a big discussion about a video where Wright and prosecutors talked about the plea deal Wright accepted.
Kinney argues that should have been shown to jurors to show Wright’s bias to please the state at trial. Kinney tried to poke holes in Wright’s confession to law enforcement.
The state said the jury believed Wright when he testified at trial.
“The jury knew all this information about Curtis Wright. The jury knew that Curtis Wright entered into a plea agreement in exchange for his testimony. He was getting 25 years,” said Christina Pacheco, who is representing the state. “That was never hidden.”
“The problem was the entire conviction of Mark Sievers depended on the jury crediting the testimony of one witness Curtis wright and the problem that the state had is that Wright was essentially a bad witness,” Kinney said.
Also, at issue, Kinney said, was that Wright never took a polygraph test. Kinney told the high court trial Judge Bruce Kyle was wrong to tell the jury that if Wright had taken a polygraph test the results would have been inadmissible at trial.
Sievers’ defense argues that instruction tainted the jury.
But the state’s response was that Kyle was just trying to outline the law.
The justices expressed skepticism and concern with issues from both sides.
“Maybe I’m missing something but I think this whole thing about the polygraph seems like an enormous diversion” said Chief Justice Charles Canady of the Florida Supreme Court.
Then the justices took aim at the state’s failure to properly file a notice to seek the death penalty in the 45-day time period after Sievers was arraigned.
One of the justices called it “a dropped ball situation.”
Pacheco said “it was inadvertent.”
The state filed the correct notice five days later and Kyle allowed it.
The defense team believes that’s reason enough why the case should never have been a death penalty case.
It could take months for the justices to release an opinion on whether Sievers should get a new trial.
Teresa Sievers was found dead on June 29, 2015 in her Bonita Springs home. She flew home from a family trip ahead of Mark Sievers and her two children and was killed in her home by Wright and Rodgers, who investigators say bludgeoned her to death.
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