“Florida is about to execute an innocent man.” That’s what an attorney with the federal public defender’s office told WMNF News. It’s also the position of the Innocence Project.
James Dailey is scheduled to be executed on November 7 for the 1985 murder in Pinellas County of 14-year-old Shelly Boggio.
Carol Wright, with the federal public defender’s office in Tampa, says that another man was convicted of the murder who says he acted alone. Wright is the Capital Habeas Unit supervisor at the federal public defender’s office for the Middle District of Florida.
“Governor [Ron] DeSantis signed a warrant for James Dailey’s execution on September 26th. The execution is set for November 7th. Mr. Dailey’s team was very surprised about this because Mr. Dailey still had significant litigation pending in the Florida Supreme Court.
“In addition, that litigation has not gone on to the Federal Habeas court. The litigation that was pending, the Florida Supreme Court issued a decision yesterday [October 3], denying Mr. Dailey’s successive post-conviction petition which raised newly discovered evidence of innocence. We hope, now, to take that into federal court.
“We’re shocked that this [death] warrant got signed. We’re very concerned because of the strong issues of innocence, and strong evidence of innocence in Mr. Dailey’s case.”
SK: The Innocence Project of Florida says that this would be an execution of someone who most likely didn’t commit the crime that he was accused of — and convicted of — perpetrating. So, what was the crime he is convicted of?
“Mr. Dailey’s been convicted of killing a 14-year-old girl. His co-defendant, Jack Pearcy, was also convicted. Mr. Pearcy was convicted prior to Mr. Dailey, and received a life sentence. Mr. Pearcy — since that time, and even prior to his trial — has several times admitted that he was the sole responsible person for killing Shelly Boggio, the victim. He has most recently signed an affidavit saying he was the sole person responsible, and Mr. Dailey was not present.
“Mr. Dailey and Jack Pearcy were friends. They were living together with Mr. Pearcy’s pregnant girlfriend, Gayle Bailey, at the time this happened. Pearcy and Dailey and another man — [Dwayne] “Oza” Shaw, who was also staying with Pearcy and Dailey — picked up Shelly, her twin sister and a friend when they were hitchhiking. They drank together. They smoked some marijuana together. Two of the girls — Shelly’s twin and Stephanie — left. And, Shelly stayed with Shaw, Bailey, Pearcy and Dailey.
“Eventually, Pearcy and Shelly drove Shaw to a phone booth to make a phone call. And phone records corroborate that he made that call. And Shelly and Pearcy then left the scene. Pearcy drove away with Shelly alone. Shaw walked back to the house. He fell asleep. He woke up. And at that time, he saw Pearcy go into Dailey’s room, wake Dailey up, and Dailey and Pearcy left. And then subsequently, Pearcy and Dailey returned to the home. But the last person seen with Shelly was Pearcy. And at that time, Dailey was asleep in his own room at the Pearcy house.”
SK: And there’s new evidence that could prove [Dailey’s] innocence. Is that right? What do we know about that evidence?
“Well, there’s been newly discovered evidence, since his conviction, that includes jailhouse snitches that came forward and explain that the detective had interviewed all of the people that were in jail with Dailey. And when he did the interviews he had newspaper articles about the crime spread out on a table so that they could see the details. Several of the inmates testified that Dailey never said anything about the crime. All he ever said was he was innocent.
“Then, there’s a kind of notorious jailhouse informant Paul Skalnik, who also came in and testified against Mr. Dailey. And he claimed that Mr. Dailey, while he was being escorted to ‘rec,’ Mr. Dailey stood at the bars of his cell and told him details about the crime. Skalnik was a former police officer. He was held in isolation. He would be the last person that anyone would snitch to. And certainly someone wouldn’t snitch while someone was being escorted by, to go out to rec.
“Skalnik testified at the trial that he was looking at 20 years imprisonment and he expected no favors. He, in fact, was released on his own recognizance two months after testifying in Dailey’s trial. And, subsequently, got five years for four counts of grand theft and two counts of failure to appear. In addition, Skalnik testified that he only did theft and drug offenses. In fact, he had been convicted of a ‘lewd and lascivious’ charge involving a 12-year-old girl in 1982. Skalnik has just a notorious reputation. He was held in Texas as a result of it an agreement with Florida and has since been released.
“In addition, there are other jailhouse inmates that were held with Dailey at the time that have come forward to say that the two other jailhouse informants, that did say Dailey claimed that he was guilty in some way, that they overheard those two inmates talking together to corroborate each other in making up a story to get a benefit from the state.
“Finally, the state attorneys representing Mr. Dailey are filing another successor post-conviction on Tuesday [October 8], where they’ve discovered additional evidence that points to Mr. Dailey’s innocence.”
Listen to a longer version of this interview here:
On Tuesday, Dailey’s lawyers filed a “Motion to Vacate Judgment of Conviction and Sentence of Death” in the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court.
Wright says that Florida has “the worst record for convicting innocent people” and sending them to death row.