Man convicted in 1999 double ax murder to get new trial after state failed to disclose ‘critical’ detail

Jason Simpson, seen on the stand during his trial, was convicted of killing a drug dealer and the dealer’s pregnant girlfriend in 1999 in Jacksonville. (Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville man found guilty in a double ax murder in 1999 will get a new trial after his conviction was thrown out.

The Florida Supreme Court said Thursday that Jason Simpson should receive a new trial because prosecutors did not disclose that a witness against him was a confidential informant for the state.

Simpson was convicted in the murders of drug dealer Archie Howard Crook and Crook’s pregnant girlfriend, Kimberli Kimbler. They were hacked to death with an ax in the bedroom of their home, according to the Supreme Court ruling.

The witness whose work as an informant had not been disclosed was Crook’s son, Archie Clyde Crook — identified in the ruling as “Little Archie.” Simpson’s defense attorneys argued during the trial that Little Archie had killed his father and Kimbler.

Archie Crook Jr., also known as "Little Archie." (Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

Little Archie had served as an informant against another man, George Michael Durrance, who was described in the ruling as being an associate of the Crook father and son and Simpson in the drug trade.

Durrance also was a figure in the Simpson murder case, and the Supreme Court, in a 5-1 decision, said Little Archie’s role as a confidential informant should have been disclosed.

The majority opinion said the “relationship between Simpson, Little Archie, and Durrance was of critical importance in this case, and the information Little Archie provided to law enforcement pertaining to Durrance casts a different light on this relationship.”

The opinion, shared by Justices Ricky Polston, Jorge Labarga, Alan Lawson, John Couriel and Jamie Grosshans, also said “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.”

But Chief Justice Charles Canady dissented, writing that the failure to disclose the information about the informant “was not material and did not prejudice Simpson.”

“The fact that Little Archie had been a source to law enforcement in unrelated matters is of little, if any, relevance, and in light of the other information known to the jury about Little Archie, would not have been an indication that he had a particular bias toward law enforcement or the state,” Canady wrote. “There is no reasonable probability that had this information been disclosed to Simpson, the result of Simpson’s trial would have been different.”

Justice Carlos Muniz was recused from the case.

News4JAX contacted the State Attorney’s Office and it said it is reviewing the ruling before making a comment.

Current State Attorney Melissa Nelson was one of the original prosecutors in the case.

About the Authors:

Jim has been executive editor of the News Service since 2013 and has covered state government and politics in Florida since 1998.

Joy Purdy co-anchors the 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. newscasts with Tarik Minor and the 11 p.m. weeknight newscasts with Kent Justice.