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Supreme Court rejects appeal in child killing

Nationwide, there are about 3,600 juveniles in state prisons, although nine states have none. Here are the states ranked by number of juveniles in prison, using U.S. Department of Justice data from 2008, the most recent year available.
Nationwide, there are about 3,600 juveniles in state prisons, although nine states have none. Here are the states ranked by number of juveniles in prison, using U.S. Department of Justice data from 2008, the most recent year available. (istock)

TALLLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously rejected an appeal by a Death Row inmate convicted of murdering an 11-year-old Broward County girl nearly three decades ago.

Justices unanimously ruled against Michael T. Rivera, now 53, who was sentenced to death in the murder of Staci Lynn Jazvac, who disappeared in January 1986 after leaving her Lauderdale Lakes home to ride her bicycle to a nearby shopping center. The girl's body was found in February 1986 in a field in Coral Springs.

In the appeal, Rivera's attorneys pointed, in part, to newly discovered DNA evidence.

That evidence involved a hair, which was found in a van that prosecutors said had been used by Rivera to abduct the girl. The hair was found to not belong to the victim, which Rivera argued could bolster his contention that he did not murder the girl. But the Supreme Court rejected the argument.

"The DNA evidence simply confirms the possibility that was asserted during trial that the hair did not belong to Staci,'' said the 36-page opinion, which was fully supported by Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and justices R. Fred Lewis, Peggy Quince, Ricky Polston and James E.C. Perry. "Notably, the evidence is not exculpatory in nature, nor does it establish that Staci was never in contact with Rivera or in (the) … van. Moreover, the state presented ample evidence during trial that Rivera committed the murder, including the testimony of two non-jailhouse witnesses to whom Rivera confessed."

Justices Barbara Pariente and Charles Canady concurred in the result, though they did not sign on to the opinion.