From Death Row to the Streets – Defendant in Ax Murder Case Released

June 6, 2022 Criminal Defense, Violent Crimes

After spending almost 20 years behind prison bars, a man in Florida who was charged with first-degree murder is being released. Jason Andrew Simpson, 49, was accused of brutally murdering a couple he was acquainted with in 1999 in their Jacksonville home.

Although Simpson was initially sentenced to the death penalty after the case’s trial, there has been recent concern over information that was not disclosed, which has led the case to go for a retrial. As of last Tuesday, the retrial ended with a new sentence—one that finally granted Simpson freedom.

We will cover the details of the 1999 case, the first trial, and the retrial, along with the outcome. We will also provide context on what a confidential informant is in Florida.

What was the Initial Case?

In the initial report dating back to 1999, Archie Howard Crook Sr., 38, and his pregnant girlfriend Kimberli Michelle Kimbler, 20, were killed with an ax in their bedroom in Jacksonville, Florida.

The couple was brutally hacked to death, almost resulting in decapitation. The police report stated that there was a bloody ax found in the house’s backyard, along with blood-splattered clothing, shoes, and a cap that was hidden behind an air conditioning unit.

“There were also body fluids identified to the suspect on the clothing,” the report stated. “The suspect was questioned and denied any involvement in the murders or the clothing.”

On December 5th, 2002, Simpson was indicted on two counts of first-degree murder for the gruesome case. During the 2007 trial, Simpson was given the death penalty from a 9-3 vote by the jury.

Reason for New Trial

In January 2022, it was announced by the Supreme Court that Simpson would be getting a retrial in the double ax murder case. The reasoning behind the retrial so many years after the defendant was sent to death row comes from critical details failing to be disclosed in the initial trial.

Specifically, the prosecution did not disclose the information that one of the main witnesses testifying against Simpson was a confidential informant to the state. Archie Clyde Crook, the son of the murdered drug dealer and referred to as “Little Archie” had served as an informant in another case against George Michael Durrance. Durrance plays a role in the murder of Crook and Kimbler, as he was considered an associate of father and son Crook and Simpson in drug trading.

In a 5-1 decision from the Supreme Court, it was decided that Little Archie’s role as a serving as a confidential informant should have been disclosed. “[The] relationship between Simpson, Little Archie, and Durrance was of critical importance in this case, and the information Little Archie provided to law enforcement pertaining to Durrance casts a different light on this relationship,” according to the majority opinion by the Supreme Court.

Justices of the Supreme Court including Ricky Polston, Jorge Labarga, Alan Lawson, John Couriel, and Jamie Grosshans all had similar opinions on a retrial for the case. They claimed, “Little Archie’s testimony and credibility were of significant consequence when we consider the lack of evidence linking Simpson to the scene of the crime.”

However, the one opposing opinion came from Chief Justice Charles Canady, who said the failure to disclose Little Archie’s involvement as an informant “was not material and did not prejudice Simpson.”

The following was a statement provided by Canady:

“The fact that Little Archie had been a source to law enforcement in unrelated matters is of little, if any, relevance, and in light of the other information known to the jury about Little Archie, would not have been an indication that he had a particular bias toward law enforcement or the state. There is no reasonable probability that had this information been disclosed to Simpson, the result of Simpson’s trial would have been different.”  

Despite Canady’s disapproval of a retrial, the majority vote won, and Simpson was granted a retrial for the murder case.

Retrial Outcome

On May 31st, 2022, Simpson received his retrial almost 23 years after the initial killing of the Crook and Kimbler. The original sentence Simpson had received had been “set aside and revoked” on March 29th, and instead of attempting to secure a second jury for the new trial, the State Attorney’s Office agreed to the guilty plea that Simpson offered. The guilty plea meant lesser offenses and lesser consequences.

The judge resentenced Simpson to 7,205 days in prison, with credit for the time he had already served. Included in the terms is a five-year-long probation period. The following is a statement from the State Attorney’s Office regarding the resentencing in the case:

“Since the defendant’s jury trial and convictions in 2007, there have been significant changes in critical witness testimony that dramatically impact the strength of the state’s case. Given these evidentiary issues, the state has accepted the defendant’s offer to plead guilty—a resolution that is in the best interest of justice.”     

With the resentencing in the 1999 case, Jason Andrew Simpson, 49, is now granted freedom from death row, and the freedom to join society again.

Confidential Informant and “Rachel’s Law”

Under Florida Statute Section 914.28, a confidential informant is an individual who cooperates with law enforcement confidentially in order to protect the person or agency’s intelligence gathering or investigative efforts. A confidential informant seeks to avoid getting arrested or prosecuted for a crime, or mitigates the punishment for a crime in which a sentence will be imposed.

By reason of familiarity or close association with suspects in a case, a confidential informant is able to complete the following:

  • Make a controlled sale or buy contraband, controlled substances, or other items necessary to the criminal investigation;
  • Supply the law enforcement agency with regular information about the suspected criminal in a case;
  • Provide the investigation with any important information for the ongoing case.

A confidential informant is also referred to as “Rachel’s Law.” Under Rachel’s Law, the law enforcement agency is required to adopt procedures and policies that help assign the highest priority in operational decisions and actions to the preservation of confidential informants and their safety.

If there has been a due process violation which results in the dismissal of charges, then compliance with Rachel’s Law is one specific provision that is considered by the courts. Florida law has specific requirements for a confidential informant to be used by law enforcement, which include the following:

  • Informing any individual who is requested to serve as a confidential informant that they will not be promised immunity, dropped or reduced charges, or reduced sentence in exchange for serving as an informant for law enforcement; and
  • Informing any individual who is requested to serve as a confidential informant that only the appropriate legal authority can determine the value of his or her assistance and how it affects a pending criminal case.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

Even when some cases end with a guilty verdict, resulting in the harshest of punishments of death row, that does not necessarily mean that all hope is lost for the defendant. In the case of Jason Simpson, he was able to leave prison after 20 years due to an issue with the first trial. An experienced defense attorney can help review the information of a case and strategize a strong defense.

Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have experience representing individuals all across Florida for various charges. We strive to work towards gaining your freedom and will stand in your corner and provide quality legal advice throughout the entire process. For a free consultation, call (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message today.

Written by Karissa Key

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