October 09, 2006

Sexual Relationship Leads to New Trial Call

July 21, 2006
Section: Metro
Edition: Fort Myers
Page: B4

Sexual relationship leads to new-trial call
Inmate says key witness, investigator were sleeping together

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Jacob Ogles

By Jacob Ogles

A Glades County man on death row for killing two people in 1984 has stopped talks with the state about having his sentenced reduced.

Instead, Michael Lambrix wants a new trial and says a key witness in the case was sleeping with an investigator.

Whether Lambrix gets a new day in court is up to Judge Thomas Corbin. Three days of hearings are set to end today, but Corbin said he will take his time to make a decision.

Lambrix was sentenced to death in 1994 for killing 19-year-old Alisha Bryant and 35-year-old Lawrence Lamberson after luring them to his trailer.

Lambrix's hopes for a new trial emerged when Frances Ottinger, Lambrix's girlfriend at the time of the murders, said she had sex with investigator Robert Daniels during Lambrix's initial trials.

On Thursday, Daniels denied her allegation.

Public defender Robert Jacobs was Lambrix's attorney for a 1983 trial that ended in a hung jury and for the 1984 trial where he was convicted. Jacobs said Thursday that information about a sexual relationship between Ottinger and Daniels would have been used in the trial if it had been disclosed.

Chief Assistant State Attorney Randall McGruther, the prosecutor in the original trials, said he was unaware of any affair and no special treatment was given to Ottinger.

Corbin said the credibility of Ottinger's and Daniels' statements needs to be weighed before he decides whether an affair might have affected the outcome of the trial.

Lambrix has said he expects the information to lead to his freedom. In a letter to The News-Press dated June 12, Lambrix wrote: "My exoneration is now inevitable."

William Hennis, Lambrix's attorney, said the state offered Lambrix two consecutive life sentences if he would plead guilty to both murders. That would have meant Lambrix would have to serve 50 years before being eligible for parole.

Cynthia Ross, the assistant state attorney handling the case, said Lambrix sent a letter to the state saying, "your offer is categorically refused by me."

No formal deal was offered before Lambrix's rejection, Ross said, because Bryant's family objected to a reduced sentence.

Hennis said Lambrix was offered a plea bargain in 1983 on second-degree murder charges and a sentence of two concurrent life sentences and will not consider a plea deal with a harsher sentence than that.

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