Thomas Lafoe Appealing?

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It’s been a while since I posted. I got a feeling I should check the case progress docket tonight and I see Lafoe’s been busy. He’s trying to appeal because he now says he was forced into pleading guilty  [we know this from the last hearing we attended.] I’ll keep an eye on this…

How much taxpayer money is this slime ball going to spend?

Lafoe’s Plea Withdrawal Hearing

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Eighteen months ago Thomas Lafoe pled guilty to the First Degree Murder of Jeffery Norton but today he tried to withdraw his plea. Three of us were there as visual reminders that Jeff was loved and remembered. Lafoe kept his gaze away from the prosecution side of the courtroom the entire time but surely he knew we were there.

How could he not? The three of us were the only spectators present when the hearing started. Absent the normal rustling of papers and people coming and going, the courtroom was so quiet you could hear murmured speech from the courtroom next door and the muffled sound of doors shutting way down the hall.

The hearing started promptly at 10 am after the arrival of the court reporter. Lafoe’s attorney called him to the stand where he said he was treated for PTSD after serving in Vietnam 30 years ago and “given medication” although he had no idea what medication he received. Lafoe thought there “might or might not be records of his treatment” which this writer thought might or might not have actually been given. But I digress.

Even Lafoe’s attorney indicated that although the records might not exist and Judge Ley pointed out that he’d had months to prepare and look for records that might or might not exist, he’d set the stage to ask for a continuance.

Lafoe testified he currently takes Vistaril* for anxiety and another drug for “depression/PTSD” and complained that he doesn’t always get his medications at the Pinellas County Jail where he’d spent the night adding he didn’t get any this morning. [He was transported to Pinellas County from Monticello, Florida where he is serving his sentence at Jefferson Correctional Institution specifically for this hearing.]

The ever meticulous Judge Ley reminded him that during the trial when he complained he wasn’t given his medication, she brought nurses over from the jail who stated under oath that he’d refused to take his medication the times he missed it. Today she ascertained that he was thinking clearly and was well rested. Gotta love her!

Asking questions of Lafoe on the stand, the defense attorney brought out Lafoe’s claim that his attorney during the trial had told him that he would be crucified if cross-examined and he would get the death penalty. He further stated that he suffered from panic attacks and took the plea to get out of his situation planning to “work it our later” by getting a new trial.

I have to agree with Lafoe on the crucifixion part because with three recorded confessions, he simply had no defense for his actions. Judge Ley questioned him on that and all agreed that no “freak-outs” had occurred. Lafoe says that his type of panic attack makes him do whatever it takes to get out of a situation.

Regarding the death penalty, during jury selection and many times during the trial, the fact that the death penalty was not on the table was brought out. His trial attorney was a death penalty certified lawyer with many years of experience and I simply don’t think he would have told Lafoe that even by mistake.

After testifying for his attorney, Lafoe was cross-examined by State Attorney Bill Loughery. At this point Lafoe began to ramble and give circuitous answers to simple questions. After several non-answers, Loughery held his hands up in surrender and indicated to the judge that there was no point in continuing  his line of questioning.

After more legal wrangling about the death penalty , Lafoe’s attorney offered to stipulate that Lafoe was not threatened with the death penalty but during a colloquy with the judge, Lafoe indicated that the stipulation was untrue [shake head here.] Judge Ley then refused to accept the stipulation.

In law, a colloquy is a routine, highly formalized conversation. Conversations among the judge and lawyers (as opposed to testimony under oath) are colloquies. In criminal court, a colloquy is an investigation within a defendant’s plea to reassure that the plea was given knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently.

And so it went with the Loughtery pointing out inconsistencies of Lafoe’s statements with the trial  transcript. After one of her signature friendly tongue-lashings directed at the defense [she lashes both ways mind you] Judge Ley granted a continuance of the hearing until January 10, 2014. Each side will come back with specific page references from the nearly 1,000 page transcript bolstering their arguments. [Loughery anticipated this and already had many pages tabbed with post-it notes. Yay!]

Next the attorneys argued over whether Lafoe should have to attend the continued hearing which he doesn’t want to do. Judge Ley would have none of that and said that Lafoe’s main attorney and Lafoe MUST attend the hearing but Loughery could send a particular attorney who works with him instead.

The attorneys disputed where Lafoe should be housed for the next three weeks.  He wants to go back to Jefferson Corrrectional Institution and Loughery thought he  should stay in the Pinellas County Jail. The defense held firm on getting Lafoe back to Monticello and eager to get the circus over with, Loughery said he would arrange transport to and from Jefferson C.I., but that Lafoe would get Sheriff Department transport and could be brought down 3-4 days before the hearing depending on the Sheriff’s Department’s schedules. So Lafoe got his way on this one. [Somehow I think this bickering had to do with which side would pay for transport.]

And so the world turns…

*Vistaril (hydroxyzine) reduces activity in the central nervous system. It also acts as an antihistamine that reduces the natural chemical histamine in the body. Histamine can produce symptoms of sneezing and runny nose, or hives on the skin.

Vistaril is used as a sedative to treat anxiety and tension. It is also used together with other medications given for anesthesia. Vistaril may also be used to control nausea and vomiting. Vistaril is also used to treat allergic skin reactions such as hives or contact dermatitis.

Lafoe’s Ugly Head Rears Up Again

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Just yesterday I cancelled my Google alert for Jeff Norton. It seems there are other Jeff Nortons out there and I was getting tired of getting alerts for this video and that, none which had anything to do with our Jeff.  It seemed that Lafoe was securely tucked away in the Florida Prison System.

Then today a friend more vigilant than I pointed out that Thomas Lafoe has an Evidentiary Hearing coming up. I realize that Lafoe has a constitutional right to appeal but frankly, I think he’s wasted enough money with his games (he cost Pinellas County taxpayers thousands of dollars during the trial with his nonsense.)

A note on doppelgängers, there is a person named Thomas Lafoe who, as far as I know, is a librarian with nothing to do with this case. I do feel for this guy. Every time he Googles his name, this Lafoe pops up. 

Hopefully some day this matter will be put to rest permanently. Until then, here we go again. Who’s up for the next hearing?

Any Attorneys Out There?

Not being an attorney, I don’t know exactly what this means but something happened today as Lafoe works toward withdrawing his guilty plea for the first-degree murder of Jeff Norton. I’m sure based on being in the courtroom for the trial that Judge Ley crossed her t’s and dotted her i’s and this is going to go nowhere.

Related links

Lafoe Hearing to Withdraw Plea July 19, 2012

Just when we think we’ve heard enough from Lafoe, I learned today that he has a hearing to request to withdraw his plea of “Guilty” for the first degree murder of Jeff Norton. It’s scheduled for July 19, 2012, exactly two years and one day after Steve and Rosemary found him.

For links from the time around the trial through this post, click here.

Notes From the Trial: Jury Selection

Jeff Norton was found murdered on July 18, 2010  and his  yard man was charged with first degree murder.

What I’m about to share is my perception of the trial filtered through the lens of my experience. Certainly everyone who attended the trial saw it differently. Not that anyone thought that Lafoe was innocent, but at times what we were hearing seemed like too much to take in.

At times, I didn’t take notes, because it seemed so unnecessary. To me the evidence was clear and pointed to Lafoe’s guilt without question, so there was no need for them. Since I’m writing from my notes, some of which are really hard to decipher, some parts of the trial will not be discussed except in general terms.

Please feel free to make comments or corrections. In any event, the trial transcript will reflect the actual words used if someone wants to check. You may wonder why I didn’t write this post as it occurred. I was not willing to do anything to jeopardize this case including write about it before the trial was over. And to write about it without publishing seemed to risky as well. What if I accidently hit the publish button by accident?

June 12, 2012 was the day for jury selection. It was scheduled to be held in a huge courtroom instead of the usual courtroom. Judge Ley presided.  The prosecution attorney William A Loughery and defense attorney John Thor White agreed that Jeff Norton was found murdered on July 18, 2010 before the jury pool was supposed to be brought in.

John Thor White then said that he had a paper his client wanted him to read because he had no reading glasses. Thor White said he was unaware of the contents and said it came out of the blue.

Thomas Lafoe asked for  a continuance because:

  • He was not provided with full discovery of witnesses Thor White responded saying he met with Lafoe 4-5 times and he didn’t want discovery as recently as 1 1/2 weeks ago.
  • He wanted a psychiatric evaluation before the trial There was no reason to order one
  • He wanted reputational character witnesses called.  Thor White said it was not a viable option as one mentioned  was a drug dealer and would embarress the defense. Another one turned out to be a witness for the state. Lafoe ultimately decided not to pursue this option
  • He was not given full information regarding all witnesses depositions naming a specific witness for the state. See the first bullet above
  • No pretrial motions were filed on his behalf. Thor White said there was no need for pretrial motions
  • He made some comment about the detectives, Gibson and Tower. Gibson is currently employed by the State Attorney’s office. [After the court business was wrapped up on the last day of the trial and out of the presence of the jury, John Thor White referred to Gibson as "My nemesis for the last 20 years" with a smile and shake of his head.]
During the time Thor White was addressing the judge, Lafoe interjected with comments on his own behalf. He showed such lack of judgement in his thought process I was hoping he’d testify. Surely any jury would be able to see right through him.
Witnesses who were neighbors were discussed regarding cryptic comments Lafoe made to them regarding the murder that showed an unusual interest and knowledge. This is what drew the police to him.
Lafoe rushed in to explain away witness statements to Judge Ley stating the statements referred to his being in a fight in his front yard and being hit with an ax handle. Thor White told the court that Lafoe refused to listen to discovery and refused to see the crime scene photos. [It came out during the trial that he'd not seen them until he was in court and saw them when the jury did for the first time. Think about it, if you were on trial for first degree murder and didn't do it, wouldn't you at least want to know what you were being accused of?]
Judge Ley arranged to have Dr Jill Poorman, an adult psychologist examine Lafoe immediately and he was found competent to stand trial. She stated he has a depressive disorder and takes Zoloft but he wasn’t  psychotic and that there was no doubt as to his competence.
At 11:10 am jury selection started and by 11:45 we were done hearing all of the reasons people said they had a schedule conflict and couldn’t serve jury duty.
At some point we must have gone to lunch.  Out of 60 people called in from the jury pool of 210, 3 had heard of the case. All said they could be impartial. At 4:00 pm the lawyers began to strike out potential jurors outside of their presence.
It seemed like a good jury. Everyone I had felt uneasy about was struck from the list.
Court was set for 9:00 with the jury set to come in at 9:30 am.

ABC News Twitter Posts

The news was going out on Twitter as the plea deal was underway.

Press Coverage of Lafoe Trial Conclusion

This post is really just a way to organize press coverage of the trial’s conclusion.

WTSP.com Thomas Lafoe changes plea, pleads guilty to murdering actor Jeff Norton

Tampa Bay Times Handyman pleads guilty, gets life sentence in murder of actor Jeff Norton Note: this article was written by  Stephen Nohlgren with whom I’ve clashed on his coverage of this case. Enough said. There is a factual error. The inmate who testified was not present at the scene of the murder. He was a cellmate testifying to admissions Lafoe made to him at the jail. I commend this young man for coming forward upon  advice from his family.

Twitter Tweets at time of plea

Bay News 9 Lafoe pleads guilty to killing local actor

Lafoe Makes Last Minute Plea Bargain

Note: Written at a McDonalds on the way home. Edited upon arrival home.

Thomas Lafoe made a plea deal today agreeing to serve  a life sentence without the possibility of parole for the first degree murder of Jeff Norton today around noon. Lafoe was expected to testify  in his defense which would have been a big mistake. Having heard him speak outside the presence of the jury, I can say with confidence that it would have taken a magician to rehabilitate his testimony.

Lafoe’s previous statements were rambling self-serving explanations for his actions and included a request to have a particular friend testify on his behalf. That friend was on the witness list. For the prosecution.

This morning Lafoe’s attorney, Thor White, appeared nervous for the first time during the trial. He was drumming his fingers on his thighs after informing the judge that he allowing Lafoe to sit and think about  his decision for a few minutes by himself. He said something about allowing him to reconsider  and make his final decision without pressure. None of the trial observers at that point realized that Thor White was talking about a plea deal instead of a decision to testify.

His plea gave him the same sentence a first degree murder conviction would have without an avenue for appeal. Afterwards a close family friend read a statement from Jeff’s mother, who did not attend any of the proceedings stating that attending was just too upsetting for her to consider.

Jeff’s friends filled the prosecution side of the courtroom spilling over to the defense side. Lafoe had only a few trial observers, none of whom stayed for even half a day. He wore a tie borrowed from his attorney and the same shirt for all four days of the trial. [I could live the rest of my life without seeing another rust colored shirt.] The contrast between the killer and the victim was striking.

This post closes a two-year long chapter of our lives. Rest in peace, Jeff. You are loved.

ps    Apologies to prosecution attorney Bill Loughery for my misspelling of his name in recent posts. Thanks, John for pointing this out.

pss  Thank you to everyone at the Pinellas County Criminal Justice Center, to the jury who had a long week, to the defense attorney for providing expert defense to avoid the possibility of a mistrial or appeal, to the detectives & the St Petersburg Police Department officers for their hard work, to all of Jeff’s friends, to Jeanette, the victim’s advocate and finally to the prosecution team and Judge Ley.

pss Apologies for the multiple edits. I am exhausted and this was a difficult post to write.

Preparing for the Trial of Thomas J Lafoe

6/4/12 11:51 am Update: The trial will get going on Wednesday. There could be opening arguements started on Tuesday after jury selection. This isn’t really new but it was just confirmed today.

One week from today, we’ll most likely be hearing the opening arguments in the first degree murder case against Thomas J Lafoe for the murder of Jeffery Norton. The whole thing seems surreal at times. Can this actually be happening? I feel a plethera of emotions all jumbled together. I’m angry, sad and in shock. This can’t be happening. But it is.  I can’t let myself get too angry or I won’t be able to write. I wonder if I’ll actually be able to make sense of this thing just to write about it. It seems impossible that I need to write this at all.

I am thankful for the people who will there as witnesses for the prosecution and in the courtroom as witnesses of the trial. We’ll figure this thing out as we go, I guess. The prosecution sits on the right side of the courtroom and the defense on the left. Once you enter the doors to the courtroom, we are subject to the rules of the court.

Judge Ley is a veteran of many murder trials and looks out for proper procedure so that verdicts won’t be reversed on appeal. Assistant State Attorney Bill Lowery will prosecute the case, most likely assisted by other attorneys from his office.  The court knows that we care as does Mr. Lowery. We are in good hands, I think.

We will need to be careful of courthouse hallway conversations. You never know who’s listening or going to make something out of nothing. This sounds like paranoia on my part but this is advice I got from Jeanette, the victim’s advocate assigned to the case. I’ve heard restrooms are a sort of no man’s land as well, being shared by all parties to the case.

The time to pack the courtroom is the day of closing arguments, possibly on Friday. Updates will be posted as things change.

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