MILTON — In 2000, a Santa Rosa County jury unanimously agreed that Norman Mearle Grim deserved to die for the rape and murder of his neighbor, Cynthia Campbell.
Seventeen years later, Grim’s argument for a re-do of the penalty phase of his trial didn’t convince Santa Rosa County Circuit Court Judge Ross Goodman that one was deserved.
Goodman on Tuesday rejected a motion for rehearing.
“We’re very pleased. The ruling was consistent with decisions made by the Florida Supreme Court involving unanimous decisions in death penalty cases,” said John Molchan, the assistant state attorney who successfully argued for denial of Grim's motion.
Grim was arrested in Oklahoma on July 31, 1998, and charged with killing Campbell four days earlier by beating her with a hammer and stabbing her 11 times with a knife.
Grim, who was the last person seen with Campbell alive, was caught by surveillance cameras acting suspiciously near the Pensacola Bay fishing bridge, where on July 27, 1998, a fisherman hooked Campbell’s body. She had been wrapped in sheets, carpets and garbage bags.
Attorneys for Grim argued in their motion for re-hearing that the defendant was entitled to have the penalty phase of his trial done over like many others across the state will have to be because the Florida Supreme Court has declared jurors must decide unanimously to impose the death penalty.
The defense team also argued that Grim’s sentence wasn’t finalized until 2003, and the Supreme Court declared its unanimous jury requirement was retroactive until 2002.
Goodman noted in his ruling that not only was the jury vote in the Grim case 12-0 for death, but that Grim had flatly rejected allowing his attorneys at that time to present mitigating factors.
“Mr. (Michael) Rollo (the defense attorney) described himself as ‘the gagged and bound penalty phase guy,’” Goodman wrote in his ruling.
Goodman noted that the Florida Supreme Court previously had ruled trial courts had issued proper sentences without mitigating factors being presented.
He ruled that “no reasonable jury” would have failed to find factors necessary to sentence Grim to death, and that the rape and murder was heinous enough on its own to outweigh mitigators.
Tuesday's ruling is hardly the end of the road for Grim. He most likely will appeal in both state and federal court, Molchan said.