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Man on Death Row wants DNA test to prove innocence. Florida’s Attorney General says no

Death row inmate William "Tommy” Zeigler, 75. (Image: Florida Department of Corrections) (WKMG 2021)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Next month, July 19 will mark the 45th anniversary of a man’s arrival on death row, who since the beginning has claimed his innocence in the killing of his wife and her family.

The State Attorney in Orlando, where the crime occurred, has agreed to new DNA testing, but the Florida Attorney General is calling foul.

No one has been on Florida’s death row longer than Tommy Zeigler.

“I didn’t fire a weapon that night,” said Zeigler in a 2000 interview.

More from Tampa Bay Times | Tommy Zeigler case inspires legislator to change Florida’s DNA law

For decades Zeigler has sought to have clothing and other evidence tested for DNA he claims will prove his innocence in the 1975 Christmas Eve slayings of his wife, her parents and a handyman at his furniture store.

“There’s a drop of blood on my wife’s blouse that they say is mine. That I stood over her and dripped blood. That is not my blood,” said Zeigler.

The jury in the case was uncertain, voting 7-5 for life in prison. That was overruled by the judge who sentenced Zeigler to death.

The State Attorney in Orlando recently agreed to allow the DNA testing at Zeigler’s expense, but Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody is arguing the agreement doesn’t follow standards in state law.

She also has said the previous testing in the early 2000′s didn’t prove anything and that not finding Zeigler’s DNA doesn’t make him innocent.

“The evidence I think would be compelling,” said Zeigler’s attorney Terry Hadley.

Hadley said he believes advances in DNA will prove Zeigler didn’t do it.

“Suppose I am wrong and everybody who believes in Tommy Zeigler are wrong, and he’s proved guilty. The state can rest, they’ve done their job. On the other hand, if it proves him innocent and it exonerates him, we’re not going to execute an innocent man,” said Hadley.

In his more than four decades on Death Row, Tommy Zeigler has survived two death warrants and most recently COVID.

We requested to speak to the Attorney General, but her office told us she was not available.

No hearing has been set yet in the DNA testing issue.

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