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Florida Supreme Court overturns conviction, death sentence in ax slayings

Florida Supreme Court overturns conviction, death sentence in ax slayings
The Florida Supreme Court ordered a new trial for Joe Simpson. File Photo courtesy of the Florida Department of Corrections

Jan. 14 (UPI) -- The Florida Supreme Court has overturned the conviction and death sentence of a man accused of killing a couple with an ax in 1999.

Joe Simpson, 48, was sentenced in 2007 to death for the slaying of Archie "Big Archie" Howard Crook Sr., 38, and his pregnant girlfriend, Kimberli Kimbler, 29, in their Jacksonville home.

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The state's high court overturned Simpson's conviction on the grounds that prosecutors withheld information that a witness -- Crook's son, Archie "Little Archie" Clyde Crook Jr. -- was a confidential informant for the state.

According to court documents, Big Archie, Little Archie and Simpson were associates in dealing drugs. Little Archie told investigators he visited his father the night of the slayings, and that when he left, he didn't lock the door behind him. He said his father and Kimbler were alive when he left.

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Police said they found the suspected murder weapon, an ax, a pair of socks and pieces of torn material caught on a barbed wire fence on the property behind Big Archie's residence. Four days later, they found more clothing outside a nearby church, including a sweatshirt and sweatpants that matched the torn material on the barbed wire.

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DNA samples taken from the clothing matched Simpson.

Investigators said that two years after the slayings, George Durrance, an associate of the Crooks and Simpson, told police that Simpson confessed to him that he killed Big Archie and Kimbler. Little Archie, meanwhile, had served as a confidential informant against Durrance in an unrelated case.

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The Florida Supreme Court said the fact that Little Archie was an informant linked to Durrance should have been disclosed in Simpson's trial.

"Little Archie's testimony and credibility were of significant consequence when we consider the lack of evidence linking Simpson to the scene of the crime," the court's opinion read.

The Florida Supreme Court sent Simpson's case to a lower court for a new trial.

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