A scene along rural Interstate 10, 40 miles east of the state Capitol in February 1992 claimed the life of a State Trooper.
Trooper James Fulford, had stopped a speeding rental car. As Fulford searched the vehicle, he opened a gift wrapped microwave oven. A pipe bomb took his life.
Miami drug lord Paul Howell had rented the car, was tied to the bomb by evidence found in his home, and sentenced to death. Now the condemn man's lawyers say a glitch kept him from having his day in court.
"Of those people that wanted to go to federal court, no one has ever been executed without at least having that opportunity. Mister Howell would be the first," said Appellate Attorney Michael Ufferman.
When asked how is that he did not get that opportunity for a trial, Ufferman reposted "Unfortunately, his attorney missed a deadline, failed to communicate with him."
The attorneys aren’t saying Howell is innocent. What they are asking for is fairness.
Howell's trial attorney received a death threat during the case. His new lawyer says that colored the first lawyer's work during the trial.
Howell’s appellate lawyers believe that if the lawyer had done his job at trial, Howell could have received life; not death.
"We've found serious brain damage and we found abuse as a child. Things that were never presented to this jury in this case," said Ufferman.
When it exploded, the bomb was just a hundred miles away from being delivered to two women who could have tied Howell to another murder. Howell could have stopped the explosion, but said nothing when he was contacted on the phone.
The Highway Patrol trooper’s death shocked the small community of Monticello. Hundreds turned out for his funeral, and six months later a large crowd gathered as the rural FHP station was named for the slain law enforcement officer. It now houses the small county’s sheriff's department.