Friday, July 1, 2011

Bartow, FL: Pittman Death Sentences Not Overturned, Convicted in 1990 Fatal Stabbings

BARTOW | The Florida Supreme Court refused Thursday to overturn David Joseph Pittman's death sentences and convictions for the 1990 fatal stabbing of his estranged wife's parents and sister.

David Joseph Pittman

The state's highest court also declined the 49-year-old Bartow man's request to further review his case, according to a more-than 40-page opinion.

Pittman was convicted of killing his wife's parents, Clarence and Barbara Knowles, and 20-year-old sister, Bonnie Knowles.

The burned bodies of the three were found May 15, 1990, inside the charred remains of Clarence and Barbara Knowles' home in Mulberry.

Autopsy results concluded they had died from multiple stab wounds, and Bonnie Knowles' throat had also been cut.

Investigators determined the fire was intentionally set, and the telephone line to the house had been cut. They also found Bonnie Knowles' missing Toyota station wagon had been driven away and set on fire as well.

At the time of the murders, Pittman's wife was in the process of divorcing him.

Prosecutors argued Pittman had made threats against his wife's family, and Bonnie Knowles attempted to press charges against him for an alleged rape.

A jury found Pittman guilty April 19, 1991, of three counts of first-degree murder, two counts of arson and grand theft. Circuit Judge J. Tim Strickland sentenced him to death.

In 1997, Pittman filed a motion with the 10th Judicial Circuit seeking to vacate his murder convictions and death sentences.

Circuit Judge Harvey A. Kornstein denied Pittman's motion in November 2007.

Pittman made numerous claims, including that his lawyers didn't effectively provide him with a defense.

In addition, Pittman claimed prosecutors failed to disclose evidence that would have been favorable to his defense.

On Thursday, the Florida Supreme Court sided with Kornstein's decision to deny Pittman's motion.

The court's opinion stated that Pittman didn't show any of the evidence would weaken prosecutors' case to a point where "there is a reasonable probability that the jury would have reached a different verdict."

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