For better or for worse, Monique Turenne took Deputy Public Defender Walter Smith to be her lawfully appointed lawyer Tuesday, after the only objection to their union was withdrawn.
"Definitely," Turenne told Circuit Judge Michael Overstreet when he asked her if she wanted to retain Smith, despite the fact that he might have information that could exonerate her but could not use it.
Overstreet told her this would be a decision she would have to live with forever.
Turenne, 48, is charged with first degree murder in the death of her husband, Canadian Air Force Maj. David Turenne, who was beaten to death Feb. 9, 1996, outside their Panama City home. Monique Turenne returned home to Canada shortly after her husband's death and fought extradition from 1997, when she was indicted, until December, when she was returned to Bay County.
Monique Turenne is scheduled for trial June 13.
In February, Overstreet assigned the Public Defender's Office to represent Turenne, and Smith, who handles the majority of the murder cases in the 14th Circuit, took the case. Soon after, however, Monique Turenne's co-defendant Ralph Crompton filed complaints with the court and Florida Bar.
Crompton, who was convicted in 1996 of David Turenne's murder and sentenced to life in prison, said Smith, who briefly represented Crompton after his arrest, would have a conflict of interest by handling Monique Turenne's case.
Crompton withdrew his complaint before court Tuesday. He has hired private attorney Ben Bollinger to protect his interests in this case.
Bollinger told Overstreet that Crompton also withdrew his bar complaint.
Overstreet then spent several minutes making sure that Monique Turenne understood what she could be giving up by having Smith represent her. He said Smith could have gained valuable information from Crompton that he would be barred from using to help her.
Overstreet said there was nothing to stop Crompton from filing his complaints again, which would bring Smith's representation back into question.
"I understand," Monique Turenne said.
She said it bothered her that Crompton could go "back and forth" on this issue if he wanted to.
Once the matter of Smith's continued representation was resolved, Overstreet granted a unique motion to partially open grand jury testimony.
Smith asked for access to testimony from the March 1997 grand jury that indicted Monique Turenne. In his motion, Smith wrote that he needs to see the records to determine if Crompton testified and, if he did, how much of the evidence did his testimony represent.
Smith said the state had painted Crompton as a liar at his trial and if prosecutors relied on testimony they knew to be false it would violate Monique Turenne's due process and negate the indictment.
Overstreet said he would have all the testimony transcribed and privately review it. He said he would determine after that if Smith could see it.
Smith said prosecutor Larry Basford was working with him, without a court order, to get phone records for a person named "Diablo," who Crompton claimed had a hand in the killing.
After Crompton's conviction, he claimed his attorney was ineffective because he did not try to find Diablo. Smith said he wants records for the local number that Crompton supplied.
Smith told Overstreet that he wanted to get the records, but didn't "think this will bear fruit."
The night before David Turenne's murdered body was found the man depicted in this drawing came to the Turenne home in Panama City. He demanded to see David and when told David was not there, ransacked the house until he found a brief case full of money stashed in a closet. He told Monique that if she spoke of this visit to anyone, he would have her children killed.
Finding her dead husband's body outside the house the next morning reinforced the seriousness of this threat. Her son, Danny, who had seen the intruder made this accurate depiction of the man they referred to as "the ponytail man." When his name came up at one of Ralph Crompton's appeal hearings, Monique went public with this . . . Full story
Deputy Public Defender Walter Smith was ready to argue two motions in accused killer Monique Turenne's case Tuesday, but all anybody else wanted to talk about is whether he should still be on the case.
Turenne, 48, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of her husband, Canadian Air Force Maj. David Turenne, who was beaten to death Feb. 9, 1996, outside their Panama City home. Monique Turenne returned home to Canada shortly after her husband's death and fought extradition from 1997, when she was indicted, until December, when she was returned to Bay County.
Circuit Judge Michael Overstreet assigned the Public Defender's Office to represent Turenne after finding that she was indigent. Smith, who does the majority of murder cases handled by the 14th Circuit Public Defender's Office, began representing Turenne in February.
Turenne's co-defendant, Ralph Crompton, then filed a complaint with the Florida Bar stating that Smith represented him for a few months in 1996, before Crompton hired a private attorney, and it would be a conflict of interest for Smith to defend Turenne.
On Tuesday, Smith and prosecutor Larry Basford went before Overstreet to argue two motions that Smith filed. Smith is asking for access to testimony from the March 1997 grand jury that indicted Turenne.
In his motion, Smith wrote that he needs to see the records to determine if Crompton testified and, if he did, how much of the evidence did his testimony represent.
Smith said the state painted Crompton as a liar at his trial and if prosecutors relied on testimony they knew to be false it would violate Turenne's due process and negate the indictment.
Smith also filed a motion on Feb. 25 asking for phone records on a telephone number that Crompton claims once belonged to a man named "Diablo," who played some role in David Turenne's death.
After his conviction, Crompton claimed his attorney was ineffective because he didn't try to find Diablo. Smith said he wants records for the local number that Crompton supplied.
With these two motions on the table, Basford first addressed the issue of whether Smith needs to be on the case considering Crompton's complaint to the bar. Basford said Crompton has contacted a private attorney to represent him in a hearing to determine whether there is a conflict of interest.
Smith told Overstreet that he has responded to the bar complaint and his stance is that there is no conflict of interest because Crompton cannot be adversely affected by Smith's representation of Turenne.
Because Crompton has been convicted and sentenced, with both being conclusively affirmed by the First District Court of Appeal, there is nothing else the state could do to him, Smith said.
Overstreet said he had Smith's and Basford's written briefs and would review them. He scheduled another hearing for March 22 to resolve Smith's standing on the case. If Overstreet finds there is no conflict of interest, he said he would be ready to move forward on the other motions.