Florida man convicted of murdering fellow inmate seeks life imprisonment
TAVARES — From tales of arraignment of murder, armed robbery and torturous and crushing rape, to stories of defense of growing up in an impoverished “family war zone,” jurors listened to opening statements on Wednesday from the Allen Cox recurrence casewho stabbed a fellow prisoner to death in 1998.
Cox was convicted of murdering Thomas Baker in 2000 and a jury recommended death. He wrote a letter to Circuit Judge T. Michael Johnson, asking him to follow the jury’s recommendation.
“I want you to accept the jury’s recommendation and send me to death row,” Cox wrote.
Now Cox is asking for a life sentence – his lawyer said he came to see the value of life.
From 2017:Inmates volunteering for the execution
“A Perfect Storm”
“What’s going on with that guy over there?” John Spivey, executive assistant public defender, asked, pointing to his client.
He went on to describe a life “like a 1930s Dust Bowl-era documentary film.”
Cox grew up in a cabin in the Appalachian region of Kentucky. There was no running water in the cabin, Spivey said, so Cox and his sister had to fetch buckets filled with water from the creek. The dirty water gave them worms.
He had no shoes and other school children laughed at him for this. There was also no food in the house. Cox ate two meals a day – school, breakfast and lunch.
Cox and her sisters were lucky enough to get a bowl of beans, Spivey said.
He was beaten with hands and tree branches by his parents, who also fought.
At age 9, Cox came home to find his father pinning his mother down, trying to cut her hair.
“Allen’s mom wasn’t much better,” Spivey said. “She shot her husband 14 times.”
When Cox’s parents separated, his mother dropped him off at his father and his new wife and said, “Here he is. You all wanted it. If he ever comes back, I’ll kill him.
He was raped by a 27-year-old cousin when he was 10.
Cox’s upbringing led to bad impulsive behavior, Spivey said. Add to that, he had numerous head injuries, including beatings by inmates in prison
Spivey promised jurors they would hear a parade of experts: psychologists, doctors, and they would see brain scans from MRIs, PET scans, and hear testimony from a toxicologist. Scientists will testify that he had brain shrinkage in the area that controls rational thought and impulse control.
An expert will testify that the environment can actually alter a person’s genetic makeup, he said.
Cox began “medicating” himself with drugs and alcohol at age 13. He was so depressed that when he was 15, he tried to kill himself by eating rat poison.
Authorities recommended that he receive psychiatric treatment when he turned 18.
“The evidence will show that he was not thoroughly processed,” Spivey said.
When Cox was being treated at Lake Correctional Institution, he was prescribed medication for depression, took it off for two weeks, and then given a different medication.
Spivey promised the defense would not aggressively interview prosecution witnesses.
“Sometimes the facts are just the facts,” he said. “We are not going to discuss justification. We see our mission as a quest to uncover the truth.
The truth, Spivey said, was “it was a perfect storm.”
of the accusation
Assistant State’s Attorney Rob Lewis described the storm that erupted in the prison’s recreation yard days before Christmas that year.
Someone stole $500 in cash from Cox’s locker. He was doing a good business selling drugs inside the prison walls. He offered a $100 reward for information and obtained a homemade knife called a “rod” from another prisoner.
When Cox’s roommate told him he might get in trouble for having the knife made out of welding rod, he said, “I don’t care. I’ll make sure whoever took my money doesn’t spend it.
Concealing the weapon in a seam of his trousers, he approached Thomas Baker and stabbed him three times. Prisoners who witnessed the attack at the time said Cox straddled the smaller man and began “pushing” him.
Baker, 25, staggered up to a prison officer and told him he had been stabbed.
“It’s the rod,” Lewis said, clutching a thin weapon in a plastic bag.
Stabbed just below the left shoulder, the puncture wound did not cause much external bleeding, but the blade penetrated Baker’s seventh rib, left lung, aorta, and right lung. Soon he was drowning in his own blood.
It caused psychological terror before his death, making the murder heinous, atrocious and cruel, one of the statutory aggravating factors of the death penalty, Lewis said.
It was also cold, calculating and premeditated, another aggravating factor, besides he was a convicted violent offender and was convicted of a crime while a prisoner.
When asked who stabbed him, Baker told the prison officer it was “Big Al”.
Prison officials locked down the facility, with each prisoner counted and in their own cell.
Cox reportedly told his roommate, “I know you did. I know you broke into my house,” and he hit him.
Cox was serving three life sentences before the stabbing.
In 1989, he walked into a South Florida convenience store with a T-shirt on his head and holes in his eyes. He grabbed the employee by the arm and dragged her to the end of the mall, ordered her to take off her pants and perform a sex act on him. She refused and tried to escape by climbing a wall. He grabbed her, threw her to the ground, and raped her atop a mound of fire ants. His pelvis was shattered in the attack.
Before that, he entered a couple’s house during a burglary and hit the husband in the head with heavy office equipment.
In search of life
A Lake County jury found Cox guilty of the jailhouse murder and recommended a death sentence by a vote of 10 to 2.
Judge Johnson, a longtime former public defender, told Cox he had forced him to make “the most difficult decision as a judge and as a human being”, but the state had proved his case.
In the letter he wrote to Johnson, Cox, 37 at the time, said he was confident he would get a new trial.
“But if they don’t, and they carry out my death sentence, from my point of view, I don’t want to die an old man in prison,” he said. “They’ll do me a favor if they give me an injection and put me to sleep.
Cox got his chance to get a new sentence when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that all death recommendations by jurors must be unanimous.
In 2017, he wrote to Circuit Judge Larry Semento and asked him not to overturn his sentence.
“But if you decide to sentence me to life, the very first time one of these garbage bags tries to steal from me, I promise you I’ll put a big hole in his heart the same way I did the last and so shall his blood be in your hands as well as mine,” Cox wrote.
Now, however, Cox has changed his mind.
“He’s developed a relationship with our attorney and mitigation specialist,” Spivey said recently. “Thirty years is a long time in isolation.”