New State Attorney Reverses Decision in Capital Case

August 11, 2022 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements, Violent Crimes

Since top prosecutor Andrew Warren was suspended by Gov. Ron DeSantis, several decisions from the office have been reversed. Newly appointed State Attorney Susan Lopez has already started to make changes, including the decision to seek capital punishment for Matthew Terry.

Terry was accused of the first-degree murder of his girlfriend, an elementary school teacher in Florida. We will cover the details of the case along with Terry’s previous criminal charge, and Lopez’s decision to impose the death penalty despite Warren initially stating that the prosecution would not seek capital punishment. 

The Case Details

Matthew Terry, 47, has been charged with the first-degree murder of his girlfriend, Kay Baker, 43. The third-grade math and science teacher at Cypress Creek Elementary School was found dead in a neighbor’s yard with multiple stab wounds to her neck.

Court documents indicated that the couple got into an argument at a local bar. “I saw you dancing with that guy,” Terry allegedly accused Baker around 11:30 p.m. before heading home.

According to court documents, the police found Terry hiding in the bushes nearby. He had only a t-shirt and underwear on, both covered in blood. Based on the stab wounds to Baker’s neck, authorities believe the killer attempted to sever her head. Terry was indicted by a grand jury for first-degree murder in June.

This was not the first violent crime Terry has been charged with. Terry previously lived in Michigan with his ex-girlfriend and mother of his children, Michelle Rogers. The couple got into an argument in 2017 and Rogers was beaten, bit, and stabbed multiple times. The violent attack resulted in Rogers spending five days in the intensive care unit.

Terry was charged with attempted murder, but his attorney argued that he was acting in self-defense. Terry was convicted of assault with the intent to cause great bodily harm and was sentenced to a minimum of three to a maximum of ten years in prison. He was released after only three years on a reduced charge, and he then moved to Florida to live with Baker.

Rogers wrote a letter in 2020 to the Michigan Parole Board, pleading against Terry’s release. “If he gets out, I fear for myself and my family, and for his next victim,” she said. “Society is in danger.”

New Decision from Susan Lopez

After getting appointed as the Hillsborough State Attorney, Susan Lopez has already announced several changes which will be implemented under her new leadership. Warren told the Tampa Bay Times that he would not seek the death penalty in Terry’s case, based on the wishes of Baker’s family.

Warren’s office spoke with Baker’s family for their input on the topic. Baker’s stepmother, Kristine Empey, told Warren that they’re, “not really people who are hugely in favor of the death penalty,” she said. “In this case, we were all in agreement that if it was what the legal experts wanted to do, we were not opposed to it. We just don’t want him to get out.”

Julianne Holt is one of the members of the Hillsborough Public Defender’s Office who is representing Terry in the case. Holt said the prosecution team only emailed her last Wednesday to inform her that the State’s Attorney’s Office would not be seeking the death penalty. However, this was only one day before Gov. DeSantis announced that Warren would be suspended. Two days later Holt received information that the prosecution had reversed their decision and would be seeking the death penalty.

In the state of Florida, prosecutors are required to file a notice of intent to seek the death penalty within 45 days of the defendant’s arraignment. Since Terry had his arraignment on June 21st, that made last Friday the deadline, which was when Lopez and the prosecution team filed a notice for of intent to seek the death penalty.

Lopez gave the following statement regarding the prosecution’s new decision to seek the death penalty: “He was merciless in his killing of Ms. Baker, and given his history of violent behavior, we will ask a jury to sentence him to death.”

After the announcement was made to seek the death penalty, Rogers gave the statement: “This is the justice I have been waiting for. I think this is the only way he is going to stop hurting people.”

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

If you or a loved one have been accused of a crime, it is important to seek out the legal help of a skilled defense attorney in your area. A criminal conviction can lead to harsh consequences including expensive fines, imprisonment, or in the most severe cases, capital punishment. Working with an experienced attorney is the best way to build a strong defense to your case. Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have represented clients all across the state of Florida for various charges. We will stand by your side throughout the entire process and help fight for your freedom. For a free consultation call (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message today.

Written by Karissa Key

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