MESA, Ariz. (AP) - Anthony M. Spears has spent the last seven years on death row for fatally shooting a woman in the desert outside Mesa and making off with her truck, her guns and her cash.
He insists he didn't do it. And now an expert forensic entomologist says the evidence supports Spears' claim of innocence, the Tribune, a newspaper serving suburban Phoenix, reported today.
Bug biology could refute the Jan. 4, 1992, date of death for Jeanette Beaulieu, a 38-year-old bookkeeper. The maggots that infested Beaulieu's body when it was found Jan. 19 indicate she died no earlier than Jan. 9, said David Faulkner, head of the entomology department at the San Diego Natural History Museum.
``My gut feeling is that with the maggots that I was able to recover from the body bag, from the evidence that was retained, that given the temperature in that particular area and the time of year ... that the body could not have been there, say, three weeks,'' said Faulkner, who has studied insects at crime scenes since 1981.
Spears returned home to California on Jan. 4 and remained there until police arrested him Jan. 25. He claimed Beaulieu had signed over her truck and given him her guns to sell for her during a brief visit.
Faulkner's findings are encouraging to the forewoman of the jury that convicted Spears in 1992.
The day after the verdict, Janet Kovach wrote the judge to recant her guilty vote, claiming fellow jurors had bullied her. Then she went to see Anthony Spears.
Two years later, they married.
``There's at least enough to say, let's look at this again. I'm asking you again to please take another look at this,'' she told the newspaper.
Spears filed a motion Monday with the state Supreme Court to get the new evidence heard. The state will file its own response in a week or so.
The medical examiner in the case admitted he had no specific training in entomology. But the state is skeptical of the new bug evidence.
``We're always interested, and they can pursue these types of claims,'' said Kent Cattani, chief of the state's death penalty appeals unit. ``The fact he's an expert doesn't mean he establishes the point for either side.
``You consider an expert's opinion in light
of all the other evidence in the case. If you have an expert that comes
in and says the moon is made of cheese, it doesn't carry all the weight.
We look at all the evidence.''