Jury recommends death penalty for James Colley Jr.

St. Johns County man gunned down wife, her best friend in 2015 rampage

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – James Colley Jr. should be executed by the state for the 2015 shooting deaths of his estranged wife and her best friend.

The jury that convicted Colley last week of the murders of Amanda Colley, 36, and Lindy Dobbins, 39, took less than three hours to return the unanimous recommendation of the death penalty in both murders.

Assistant State Attorney Jennifer Dunton called the jury's recommendation "bittersweet."

"It's not an easy process the jury has go through, but we're very happy they considered case the same way we did and it brings some measure of justice and closure for Amanda and Lindy."

UNCUT: Judge reads jury recommendation |
DOCUMENT: Jury form recommending death penalty 

Circuit Judge Howard Maltz will consider the jury's recommendation, along with arguments presented by the prosecution and defense, and will hand down his sentence for Colley, 38, at a later date.

Colley will have a Spencer hearing on Oct. 2, which gives him another chance to present evidence that could convince Maltz to set aside the jury's recommendation and sentence him to life. Maltz can still choose to do so, but that would be an unusual decision, considering the unanimous recommendation that is now required for any death penalty sentence in Florida.

Death or life?

Assistant State Attorney Kenneth Johnson argued Wednesday that Colley had plenty of chances on Aug. 27, 2015, to decide not to murder his estranged wife, but instead he continued with the shooting rampage because “he was on a mission.” That rampage also claimed the life of Amanda Colley's best friend, Lindy Dobbins.

Johnson said Colley planned the shooting because he was losing control of Amanda, who was in a relationship with someone new, and Colley couldn't let her go.

"Remember that real people were involved. They were human beings, and now they're dead. They're dead because of one man -- the selfish choices he made," Johnson said, pointing at Colley in court.

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The jury decided the state successfully proved the murders were “cold, calculated and premeditated,” and also “heinous, atrocious and cruel” -- two of the aggravating factors that could warrant the death penalty.

To prove his point about the heinous nature of the crimes, Johnson recounted the brutal details of the murders, including the nine gunshot wounds Amanda suffered, and again played the 911 calls that recorded the women's deaths and their pleas for Colley to stop.

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Johnson said Colley had “no conscience, no pity” as he repeatedly pulled the trigger.

“Whatever he thought about Amanda Colley, he was not the judge, jury and executioner of her character. What she did, did not deserve a death sentence,” Johnson said.

But what Colley did does, he argued.

The jury unanimously agreed, despite the defense's plea that they show mercy and recommend Colley spend the rest of his life in prison.

The three other aggravating factors the state argued were already proven when the jury convicted Colley last week of two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of attempted first-degree murder, two burglary counts and a count of aggravated stalking, Johnson said:

  • Colley was previously (or simultaneously) convicted of a capital felony or felony involving use of violence.
  • The murders were committed while Colley was in the commission of a burglary.
  • The victim had an injunction against the killer at the time of the murder (applies only to Amanda Colley).
  • The jury said the state proved all of the aggravating factors beyond a reasonable doubt and that although some mitigating circumstances existed, they did not outweigh the aggravating factors.

    About the Authors:

    A Jacksonville native and proud University of North Florida alum, Francine Frazier has been with News4Jax since 2014 after spending nine years at The Florida Times-Union.