WILLIAM THOMAS ZEIGLER JR v. STATE OF FLORIDA

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Supreme Court of Florida.

WILLIAM THOMAS ZEIGLER, JR. Appellant(s) v. STATE OF FLORIDA Appellee(s)

CASE NO.: SC16-1498

Decided: April 21, 2017

William Thomas Zeigler, Jr., a prisoner under sentence of death, appeals the circuit court's denial of his motion for postconviction DNA testing filed pursuant to Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.853. We have jurisdiction. See art. V, § (3)(b)(1), Fla. Const.

In the motion for DNA testing, Zeigler argued that (1) the use of modern technology to test “every single bloodstain” and for touch DNA on his shirts will show that Perry Edwards's blood and DNA are not on his clothing, therefore, he did not kill Perry; (2) the use of modern technology to test bloodstains and for touch DNA on Eunice Zeigler's clothing will reveal the identity of the person who killed Eunice, which could not have been Zeigler; (3) testing Perry Edwards's clothing and fingernails for touch DNA will demonstrate that Zeigler's DNA is not on the clothing or underneath the fingernails, meaning that Zeigler did not attack and kill Perry; and (4) testing the guns used in the murders for touch DNA will prove that Zeigler did not “clean and maintain” them.

We affirm the denial of Zeigler's request to test his shirts because that request is procedurally barred. This Court previously considered and rejected the same request for DNA testing in two prior appeals. See Zeigler v. State, 116 So. 3d 255, 258-59 (Fla. 2013); Zeigler v. State, 967 So. 2d 125, 130 (Fla. 2007). The fact that Zeigler now wishes to use more advanced technology to test the same items of clothing does not make his request new. It does not change that this Court has already concluded that the absence of Perry's DNA on Zeigler's clothing is not exculpatory. See Zeigler, 116 So. 3d at 259.

Even if Zeigler's request to test his shirts was not procedurally barred, he is still not entitled to relief because the results of the tests previously performed on his shirts were not inconclusive. See Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.853(b)(2). It is undisputed that the portions of Zeigler's shirts tested in 2001 did not contain Perry's blood. Because Zeigler's theory of innocence is based on the lack of Perry's blood on his shirts, using new techniques to get the same result is unnecessary and unwarranted. Moreover, even if additional testing on Zeigler's shirts again revealed the absence of Perry's blood or DNA, it still would not establish a reasonable probability that he would have been acquitted had the results been admitted at trial. See Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.853(c)(5)(C); see also Robinson v. State, 865 So. 2d 1259, 1265 (Fla. 2004) (“It is the defendant's burden to explain, with reference to specific facts about the crime and the items requested to be tested, how the DNA testing will exonerate the defendant of the crime ․”).

We also affirm the denial of Zeigler's requests to test Eunice's clothing, Perry's clothing and fingernails, and the guns because he failed to demonstrate how the results of such testing would give rise to a reasonable probability of acquittal. Zeigler failed to explain how identifying the specific source of the blood or touch DNA on Eunice's clothing would exonerate him, particularly in light of the testimony at the evidentiary hearing that it was possible Zeigler's own DNA was on Eunice's clothing. As to Perry's clothing and fingernails, because this Court has already determined that the absence of Perry's blood on Zeigler's clothing is not exculpatory, it follows that the lack of Zeigler's DNA on Perry's clothing or body is also not exculpatory. And as to the guns, simply demonstrating that Zeigler's DNA is not on the interior portions of the guns does not prove that he did not use the guns to kill the victims.

Zeigler also appeals the circuit court's denial of his motion for discovery in which he sought to depose a witness from his 1976 trial. Parties pursuing postconviction relief under rule 3.853 are permitted to engage in limited pre-hearing discovery into matters that are relevant and material upon a showing of good cause. See Kelley v. State, 974 So. 2d 1047, 1050 (Fla. 2007); State v. Lewis, 656 So. 2d 1248, 1249-50 (Fla. 1994). Here, Zeigler failed to demonstrate how the discovery he sought was relevant to whether there is a reasonable probability that DNA test results would exonerate him. Accordingly, the circuit court properly denied his request to engage in discovery.

For each of these reasons, we affirm the denial of Zeigler's rule 3.853 motion for DNA testing. It is so ordered.

NOT FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING MOTION AND, IF FILED, DETERMINED.

A True Copy

Test:

John A. Tomasino Clerk, Supreme Court

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Served:

DENNIS H. TRACEY, III

DAVID R. MICHAELI

VIVIAN SINGLETON

JAVIER PERAL II

JOHN HOUSTON POPE

HON. TIFFANY MOORE RUSSELL, CLERK

HON. REGINALD KARL WHITEHEAD, JUDGE

HON. FREDERICK JAMES LAUTEN, JR., CHIEF JUDGE

KENNETH SLOAN NUNNELLEY

LABARGA, C.J., and PARIENTE, LEWIS, QUINCE, POLSTON, and LAWSON, JJ., concur. CANADY, J., recused.

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