Court Upholds Conviction and Death Sentence in 2015 Murder-for-Hire Case

November 21, 2022 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements, Violent Crimes

A murder-for-hire case from over seven years ago just had its newest update, with the Florida Supreme Court upholding the conviction of the victim’s husband. After a motion was denied for retrial, the Florida man will remain on death row and keep his death penalty sentence.

This article will provide details from the case, along with information on Spencer hearings in Florida.

What was the Case?

On June 28th, 2015, Teresa Sievers returned alone to her Bonita Springs home from a family vacation. As she was entering the house with her luggage, she was met with two men inside her home. Curtis Wayne Wright Jr. and Jimmy Ray Rodgers had allegedly been hired to kill Teresa by her husband, Mark Sievers.

According to the report, Wright Jr. and Rodgers were waiting for Teresa in the kitchen. As she walked inside, the two men beat her over the head with a hammer until she was dead. Teresa was allegedly hit a total of seventeen times by the hammer. The state believes that Mark Sievers began the plot for the murder-for-hire scheme weeks prior to the incident.

In May 2015, Mark traveled to Missouri for Wright Jr.’s wedding. Records show that Wright Jr. agreed to “take care of it” for $100,000 in life insurance proceeds. Rodgers was allegedly recruited later on by Wright Jr. who promised to split part of the insurance proceeds with him.

Police arrested both Wright Jr. and Rodgers for the murder, along with Mark Sievers. During the trial in 2019, Wright Jr. testified against Rodgers and Sievers. Wright Jr. admitted to his part in the murder-for-hire in exchange for a 25-year prison sentence.

When Assistant State Attorney Hamid Hunter questioned Wright Jr. about who killed Teresa Sievers, he responded “I did and Jimmy Rodgers.” Wright Jr. continued to detail how Sievers approached him about the plan at his 2015 wedding after complaining about marriage problems.

Rodgers was convicted of second-degree murder and trespassing by a Lee County jury in October 2019. On February 10th, 2020, Wright was sentenced to 25 years for his role in the murder. Sievers was convicted of first-degree murder in December 2019, and Judge Bruce Kyle sentenced him to the death penalty in 2020.

Motion for New Trial

In December 2021, Sievers filed a motion for a new trial following new evidence in the case. According to the motion, the new evidence included a six-page letter written by Jimmy Rodgers. The letter was addressed to Mark Sievers’ mother, Bonnie.

The letter claimed that Wright Jr.’s testimony was false and that Sievers was never involved in the murder conspiracy. In addition, there was a list of “facts” in the letter that claimed the Lee County Sheriff’s Office had off-camera witness interrogations to create the hitman story. However, Judge Kyle denied Sievers’ motion.

Newest Update in Case

In the case’s most recent update, the Florida Supreme Court affirmed Sievers’ conviction and sentence in relation to his wife’s murder. Sievers was trying to challenge the sentence due to victim-impact evidence, claiming it was admissible.

The court said that Teresa Sievers’ mother’s live testimony along with a brief video of Teresa were both relevant to indicate the loss of Teresa. Mark Sievers did not object to the court procedure when it originally took place two years ago but was now arguing the decision to require the trial court to impose sentence on a separate day from a Spencer hearing.

Sievers also argued that there was no constitutional basis for the jury to determine his involvement was a cold, calculated, and premeditated aggravator. His reasoning was due to the crime depending entirely on the co-conspirators.

After the appeal was denied, the Florida Supreme Court decided to uphold Sievers’ original conviction and sentence. Sievers will remain on death row until he is scheduled for the death penalty.

What is a Spencer Hearing?

A spencer hearing can occur during a criminal case that has the death penalty as a potential sentence. Named after the 1993 Spencer v. Florida case, a spencer hearing is an opportunity for the defendant’s attorney to present any additional evidence to the judge before the sentence is announced.

In the 1993 case, it was ruled by the Florida Supreme Court that a trial judge is required to hold this type of hearing for the defendant to be heard before imposing capital punishment. If appropriate, the defendant may be given the opportunity to present any additional evidence on their behalf prior to the sentencing phase.  

Both the state and the defense team have the ability to comment on the recommended sentence. Once this takes place, the defendant is able to speak on their own behalf in the spencer hearing. From a defense standpoint, this is an opportunity to address any mitigating factors that could potentially refrain from a death penalty sentence.

Motions and Preserving the Record in Criminal Cases

The filing of a Motion is one of the ways that attorneys communicate with the judges and inform the State of their intention during a case. Understanding that it is not the judge’s, the clerks, and much less the prosecutor’s job to file a Motion is important during your trial. Filing a Motion is not just a strategy but it’s a good way to preserve your record on appeal.

Because there are many Motions that a defense attorney can file throughout a criminal trial, having an experienced attorney can make a world of difference in your case. Having the right attorney can help you in the future if things don’t go as planned. An excellent example occurred by the defendant in the above story whose attorney did not object to the testimony or live video.

If the record is not properly preserved, then a defendant can lose the right to object to an issue in an appeal. This is why defense attorneys ensure that the record is complete and ready during a criminal proceeding.

To learn more about Motions in Criminal Proceedings, you can follow our link here. If you’d like to read more about the importance of preserving the record for an Appeal, click here.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

Getting accused of a criminal offense is no small issue. Harsh penalties can occur from a criminal conviction, including hefty fines and imprisonment. In the most severe cases such as the one mentioned above, it can lead to the death penalty as well. The best way to protect yourself is to work with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in your area.

Don Pumphrey and his team have years of experience representing clients across Florida. We understand the importance of building a strong defense for your case and vow to stand by your side throughout the entire process. Contact Pumphrey Law Firm today for a free consultation at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message on our website.

Written by Karissa Key

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