Woman on death row asks for new trial in robbery, murder case
Tiffany Cole was convicted of first-degree murder in 2008
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A woman on death row, convicted of first-degree murder, following the death of a Jacksonville couple in 2005, wants to ask the Florida Supreme Court for a new trial.
Carol and Reggie Sumner, both 61-years-old, were kidnapped, robbed and buried alive and four people, including Tiffany Cole the woman asking for a new trial, were charged in connection with the crime that spans two states.
The couple from St. Nicholas was found after they were buried alive about 60 miles away in Charlton County, Georgia.
Michael Jackson, Alan Wade, and Tiffany Cole are all on death row in connection with the case after Bruce Nixon testified against the others and was sentenced to 45 years prison for second-degree murder.
An attorney speaking about the case said that this will be a tough case for Cole's new attorneys. In 2008 she was sentenced to death and became the only woman on death row at the time.
July 8, 2005, was the last time anyone saw Reggie and Carol Sumner alive. Three days later their daughter filed a missing person's report.
A week after they were last seen police announced the arrest of four people including Nixon who admitted to kidnapping and robbing the Sumners and putting them in the trunk of their car and driving them to Charlton County where they were buried.
Cole's request for a new trial comes because she's arguing that her old attorneys were ineffective.
"What Ms. Cole's attorneys are going to have to show is that her prior attorneys did not do a thorough enough investigation. They did not have her evaluated. They did not present this information to the jurors that she had mental issues. That she had substance abuse issues. That she had been abused as a 12-year-old and that obviously affected her views," attorney Rhonda Peoples-Waters said.
Peoples-Waters is not connected with the case but said Cole's new attorneys will also have to show that the outcome of the case would've been different had she been represented differently.
"They wanted to more so paint her as this person that had a very minimal role in this circumstance and that she did not even know that a death or murder was going to occur," Peoples-Waters said.
Asking for a new trial because of representation isn't uncommon but Peoples-Waters said this is a case the Florida Supreme Court will have to spend some time on.
It's believed Michael Jackson, Tiffany Cole's boyfriend, was the mastermind behind the crime.
"The jurors heard the fact that she was the person that actually knew the victim in this case and so I believe that certainly impacted why they probably held her just as accountable as the other defendants.
Peoples-Waters says the decision the Supreme Court makes is likely one Cole will have to live with so the stakes are high for her attorney to try and convince these justices.
The Supreme Court case starts Thursday at 11:30 a.m.
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