Aileen Wuornos - The Post-Trial Period

The Case of Aileen Wournos


The Post-Trial Period

After the trial it was revealed that Tyria Moore made several book and movie deals selling her story. So did three detectives on the case, who later resigned. In their defense, the officers maintained that they were moved to sell their version of the case by pure intentions, planning to put the money in a victims fund. They later denounced exposure of their scheme as the malicious work of brother officers, driven by their jealousy at being cut out of the deal.

In November 1992, Dateline NBC reporter Michele Gillen discovered Mallory had served 10 years in prison for violent rape in another state. Detectives had previously denied any evidence existed to corroborate Wuornos’ claims of rape or a history of sexual crimes by Mallory. Had detectives searched federal criminal records to check into claims that Mallory was violent, they would have produced this history. However, the judge refused to allow this to be admitted in post-trial proceedings, and Wuornos was never given a re-trial.

After the trial Wuornos was legally adopted by her new friend, Arlene Pralle, after Pralle had a dream in which she was told to "take care of" Wuornos. According to Pralle, Jesus told her to write to Wuornos, and she did. What Wuornos did not know was that Pralle was receiving money for giving interviews, including one with Nick Broomfield, who paid her $10,000. Part of the money went to Wuornos' new lawyer, Steven Glazer, whom Pralle hired. Chief Assistant Public Defender Tricia Jenkins, whose office handled Wuornos´ Volusia County trial, accused Glazer of mishandling Wuornos’ subsequent cases and appeals. Jenkins testified that Glazer never picked up the discovery files from that case, even as he prepared the case in Marion County. Instead, Glazer filed a notice that he was taking over the case and a motion to change Wuornos´ original not-guilty plea to “no contest” on the same day. "He told me he was taking the case because he needed the media exposure," Jenkins said. On March 31, 1992 Wuornos pleaded no contest to the murders of Dick Humphreys, Troy Burress, and David Spears, saying she wanted to "get right with God.”

The relationship between Wuornos and Pralle was not to last; Wuornos began to suspect that Pralle was there only for the publicity and the money. Wuornos told Broomfield in an interview that Pralle and Glazer were telling her ways to kill herself in prison. She suspected they advised the “no contest” plea because Glazer was too inexperienced to handle a multiple murder trial.

In June 1992, defeated by the loss of her once trusted friend Pralle, Wuornos pleaded guilty to the murder of Charles Carskaddon and received her fifth death sentence. In February 1993 she pleaded guilty to the murder of Walter Antonio and was again sentenced to death. During her plea to the court, she held to her statement that Mallory had raped her. In a rambling statement she said, “I wanted to confess to you that Richard Mallory did violently rape me as I’ve told you. But these others did not. [They] only began to start to.” On May 15, 1993 Judge Thomas Sawaya rendered three more death sentences. She turned to Assistant State Attorney Ric Ridgeway and hissed, “I hope your wife and children get raped in the *ss!”  She made an obscene gesture and muttered, “Motherf****r!” The clip below, from the documentary "Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer," shows Wuornos' reaction to receiving death sentences for the murders of Burress, Humphreys, and Spears.

No charges were brought against her for the murder of Peter Siems, as his body was never found. In all, she received six death sentences.

Victim Date of Murder Date of Wuornos Sentencing
Richard Mallory 12-01-89 01-31-92, Jury recommended death 12-0
Dick Humphreys 05-19-90 05-15-92, Jury recommended death 10-2
Charles Carskaddon 05-31-90
02-05-93, Penalty trial waived,
sentenced to death by judge
David Spears 06-01-90 05-15-92, Jury recommended death 10-2
Troy Burress 07-30-90 05-15-92, Jury recommended death 10-2
Peter Siems* 09-11-90  
Walter Jeno Antonio 11-19-90 02-04-93, Jury recommended death 7-5

*Wuornos confessed to the murder of Peter Siems, but no body was found.

Appealing the Conviction and Death Sentence

Direct Appeal

In Florida, the state constitution requires that an automatic direct appeal be taken to the Supreme Court of Florida on behalf of a defendant who has been sentenced to death. The direct appeal cannot be waived by the defendant, and legal representation must be provided to the defendant. Further review may be sought in the Supreme Court of the United States by a procedure called “certiorari review.” The U.S Supreme Court has complete discretion to grant or deny certiorari; it need not give any reason for its decision to review or not to review a case. The automatic appeal to the Supreme Court of Florida and any certiorari review of it are collectively called the “direct appeal.”

For the automatic direct appeal, Wuornos was provided a court-appointed attorney, Assistant Public Defender Christopher S. Quarles. On November 16, 1994, the Supreme Court of Florida affirmed Wuornos’ conviction and sentence. Wuornos then filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari in the United State Supreme Court, which was denied on April 17, 1995.

Post-Conviction Proceedings

During the extensive post-conviction period, from 1994 until 2002, Wuornos argued her original trial counsel provided ineffective representation. One example of poor representation revealed in subsequent appeals was trial counsel’s failure to uncover Richard Mallory’s prior rape conviction, which could have corroborated Wuornos’ argument of self-defense. In addition, trial counsel failed to call lay mitigation witnesses during the penalty trial who could have testified to the defendant’s claims of abuse during her childhood and adolescence, even though several childhood friends and neighbors said they would have testified if they had been called. In later hearings several of these potential witnesses testified they were contacted by the media following Wuornos’ arrest, but never by the Public Defender’s office. The defendant also argued she had not been effectively evaluated regarding her competency to stand trial.

Throughout the post-conviction period Wuornos’ erratic behavior continued to worsen. She fired several attorneys and in 2001 dropped her appeals. Some of these attorneys contacted the Florida Supreme Court to express their concerns that Wuornos was not competent to be executed. Wuornos also wrote several extensive and rambling motions to the courts in which she claimed prison staff were abusing her.

All of Wuornos’ claims were evaluated and rejected by the state and federal appellate courts.


Executive clemency is the power of an official or agency in the executive branch of government to nullify a criminal conviction (by granting a "pardon"), to reduce a court-ordered punishment (by granting a "commutation of sentence"), or to delay an execution (by granting a “reprieve”). In some states, the Governor alone has these powers; in others, the powers are given exclusively to a board of pardons and paroles; in still others, the powers are divided between the Governor and the board. In Florida, the governor makes clemency decisions in conjunction with the Executive Clemency Board on which he sits. The Governor has complete discretion to deny clemency at any time, for any reason; to grant clemency, however, the governor needs the approval of at least two members of the Clemency Board.

On September 30, 2002, Governor Jeb Bush granted a Stay of Execution and ordered a mental examination to determine whether Wuornos was competent to be executed. Florida law mandates that an inmate cannot be executed unless she understands both why she has been sentenced to death and that execution results in death. An examination by three psychiatrists appointed by the state concluded Wuornos was competent to be executed and the stay was lifted.

Before Wuornos’ execution, an Ohio group called Florida Support filed a motion on her behalf to stay the execution, citing her extreme mental illness. Florida allows groups or individuals to file such motions on behalf of defendants as “next friend” in capital post-conviction proceedings. This motion was denied.

The Execution

On October 9, 2002, Aileen Wuornos was executed by lethal injection at Florida State Prison. In her last statement, Wuornos said, "I'd just like to say I'm sailing with the rock, and I'll be back like Independence Day, with Jesus June 6. Like the movie, big mother ship and all, I'll be back." She was pronounced dead at 9:47 a.m. Aileen Wuornos was the tenth woman to be executed in the United States since 1976 and the second woman ever executed in Florida.

Issues Raised by the Wuornos Case

The case of Aileen Wuornos highlights issues that are prevalent in many other capital cases. The following links will take you to a portion of the Capital Punishment in Context Web site designed to provide substantive information on each of these important issues and how they relate to this particular case.

Mental Illness and the Death Penalty
Media Influence on Capital Cases
Representation in Capital Cases
Mitigation in Capital Cases

Additionally, the following links will take you to a portion of the Death Penalty Information Center’s Web site designed to provide general information on each of these important issues.

Women and the Death Penalty