january, 31, 2014
DAYTONA BEACH — A federal appeals court in Atlanta, citing former state attorney John Tanner’s biblical references during sentencing, has thrown out the death sentence against a man convicted in the killing of a teenage worker during a robbery at a Taco Bell in Daytona Beach in 1992.
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta has ordered a new sentencing for Anthony Farina, 40, who was convicted in the slaying of 17-year-old Michelle Van Ness during the robbery on May 9, 1992, at the Taco Bell on Beville Road. Also convicted in the killing was Farina’s brother Jeffrey Farina, the triggerman.
The brothers forced four workers into a freezer and then Jeffrey Farina shot three of them before the gun misfired. That’s when Anthony Farina handed his brother a knife and Jeffrey Farina stabbed a fourth employee. All survived except for Van Ness.
Tanner, who lost his bid for re-election in 2008 against R.J. Larizza, could not be reached Thursday.
The state plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Both brothers received the death sentence but the Florida Supreme Court reduced Jeffrey Farina’s to life because he as 16 at the time he killed Van Ness.
The appeals court said Tanner went too far when questioning the Rev. James Davis, a prison pastor who had been called by defense attorney William Hathaway to testify about counseling Anthony Farina at prison.
Tanner drew heavily from the Bible during his questioning of Davis, “urging the implementation of God’s law,” the 11th Circuit ruling states.
“While elevating his own station as divinely-ordained authority, the prosecutor made clear that the death penalty was the sole acceptable punishment under divine law, noting how Christ himself refused to grant a felon forgiveness from the death penalty.”
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