OKEECHOBEE, Fla. — The defense team of Michael Woodbury, a man who killed three people in Conway, before pleading guilty to murdering a fellow inmate in Florida is trying to have Woodbury's Florida conviction overturned due to the trial court's handling of Woodbury's mental illness.
It was July 2, 2007, when Woodbury, then 31, walked into the Army Barracks store at 347 White Mountain Highway in Conway and shot store manager James Walker, 34, and two customers from Massachusetts, William Jones, 25, and Gary Jones, 23, who had come to the area to go camping.
Walker and William Jones died at the scene, and Gary Jones died at Maine Medical. The two campers apparently tried to halt Woodbury's bid to steal a car.
A day later, the Windham, Maine, resident gave himself up to a Fryeburg, Maine, patrol officer in a forested stretch of railbed. He later pleaded guilty to the killings.
Since 2009, Woodbury, now 43, has been serving three consecutive life sentences without parole in Florida.
On Sept. 22, 2017, he went berserk at the Okeechobee Correctional Institution, beating fellow Florida inmate Antoneeze Haynes to death with a padlock. Haynes was serving five life sentences.
Woodbury pleaded guilty to killing Haynes on May 21, 2018, which was the third day of his murder trial.
The penalty phase took place in July 2018 at the Okeechobee County Courthouse with Judge Sherwood Bauer presiding. In September 2018, Bauer, agreed with a jury that Woodbury should be executed.
Notice of appeal was filed in December of 2018. The appellant brief was filed Sept. 20 in the State Supreme Court on Sept. 20 by Public Defender Carey Haughwout, Assistant Public Defender Mara Herbert and Assistant Public Defender Paul Edward Petillo. The Florida Attorney General's Office is handling the case at the Supreme Court level.
The defense team asked the high court to reverse Woodbury's conviction and remand for a new trial or reverse for a new penalty phase.
"This case arose when an inmate suffering from bipolar disorder killed his cellmate after unwanted sexual advances," they wrote.
"Despite a long history of mental illness, Woodbury was permitted to proceed pro se (representing himself). After testifying at the guilt phase, Woodbury entered an open plea of guilty to first degree murder. He continued pro se through the penalty phase."
The guilty plea was entered without any agreement with the state not to seek the death penalty, the defense team said.
The defenders also say the trial court should have picked up that Woodbury's testimony about the killing contradicted the state's argument that it was premeditated or even intended.
The brief says Woodbury said he woke up to Haynes trying to touch him sexually. While Woodbury reportedly identifies as gay, he gave a number of other rationales for striking Haynes.
At one point, it said, Woodbury went on "a rant about baseball," becoming "upset" that one of the prison supervisors had a New York accent.
"He struck Haynes because the Red Sox lost to the New York Yankees," said the brief, which quotes Woodbury as saying, "Let it be known you're getting one because of the Boston Red Sox."
Woodbury also ranted about religion and beat Haynes for "moving too much" and "smiling."
Afterwards, Woodbury asked a correctional officer if he thought he was crazy, and the officer said no, just misunderstood.
Then Woodbury licked his blood covered fingers and asked the officer, "Am I crazy now?"
In addition, Woodbury demanded to be returned to New Hampshire to see his father before he died (when in fact his father is said to be in fine health).
The defenders argue that Woodbury is severely mentally ill, "potentially incompetent" and the trial court should done more to have Woodbury's competency evaluated.
They also argue that Woodbury was not in a position to enter a guilty plea that was "knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently entered."
The brief quotes the National Alliance on Mental Illness as saying people in the manic state of bipolar disorder "frequently behave impulsively, make reckless decisions and take unusual risks. Most of the time, people in the manic states are unaware of the negative consequences of their actions."
Prior to making the guilty plea, Woodbury said he would "moon walk" over the prosecution's case, despite the fact that pleading guilty actually makes the process easier for the prosecution.
The defenders say Woodbury's "manic state" might have been a factor in his decision to represent himself.
According to the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure, the state has 50 days from Sept. 20 to respond. The defendant then has 40 days to reply to the state. The need for oral arguments and their scheduling would come after the defendant's reply brief is filed.
A spokesman for the State Supreme Court said extensions are common in complex cases.
Ashley Albright was one of the prosecutors at the trial court level. He is now the Attorney-in-Charge for Okeechobee County. He said his office started the automatic appeals process for Woodbury.
"It can take six months to a year or longer for a final opinion to be released by the court," Albright told the Sun on Wednesday.
"In this specific case, my office filed the notice of appeal on his behalf to get the case moving, since Woodbury represented himself and failed to file a notice of appeal."