James Armando Card, 70, has been on death row since 1982 when he was convicted of the robbery, kidnapping and first-degree murder of Janice Franklin.
PANAMA CITY — A Bay County man condemned to death in 1981 for kidnapping and brutally murdering a woman he knew could get another chance to argue for his innocence, according to court records.
That chance, however, will depend on the outcome of an upcoming forensic DNA test.
James Armando Card, 70, has been on death row since 1982, when he was convicted of the robbery, kidnapping and first-degree murder of Janice Franklin. A recent Florida Supreme Court ruling opened the possibility for Card to receive a second shot at a penalty phase. His defense attorneys further argued Thursday that DNA evidence collected after the conviction also could position Card to have the case tried more than three decades later in front of another Bay County jury.
The status of the case has been tentative since a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year upended Florida’s death penalty procedures. More recently, the Florida Supreme Court ruled May 4 the jury decision to sentence Card to death by a margin of 11-1 was insufficient and deserving of a second penalty hearing.
“This court has no way of knowing if the jury unanimously found each aggravating factor, whether the aggravating factors were sufficient to impose a death sentence, or whether the aggravating factors outweighed the mitigating circumstances,” the Florida Supreme Court wrote of the decision. “Further, this court cannot speculate why the one juror who voted to recommend a sentence of life imprisonment determined that a sentence of death was not the appropriate punishment.”
The court then sent the case back to the 14th Judicial Circuit, where Card’s case once again is being argued. The direction of those arguments will be steered in the coming weeks by the outcome of a DNA test, which defense attorneys think could benefit Card while prosecutors disagree.
Circuit Judge Michael Overstreet has ordered Card to submit a sample for testing within two weeks. That sample will be sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for analysis, and depending on the outcome Card could move for a new trial.
Card’s case is one of the oldest on death row from Bay County, second only to that of Charles Kenny Foster. State Attorney’s Office Chief Deputy Larry Basford said it is one of many currently being reviewed in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that Florida’s capital punishment procedures were unconstitutional.
“We are in the process of looking at all the death penalty cases to determine whether we have sufficient evidence to go forward,” Basford said. “We’re talking with victims’ families doing what we can to respect their wishes.”
Card was convicted in 1982 of Franklin’s murder. Card had armed himself with a knife before robbing the Western Union office where Franklin worked, investigators said.
During a struggle, Franklin’s fingers were severely cut on both hands, almost severing several fingers on her right hand. Card forced Franklin in a car and drove 8 miles to a wooded area, where he promised he wouldn’t hurt her, according to investigators.
When Card and Franklin arrived at the wooded area, Card instead came up from behind her, grabbed her hair, pulled her head back and slit her throat several inches deep. Investigators said Card then stood over Franklin, a woman he knew, and watched her bleed to death, later telling a friend he even enjoyed it.
During the next few weeks, modern DNA technology will be testing items recovered from the scene against Card’s DNA. A status conference is scheduled for July 13.