St Augustine murderer headed back to death row

Last Thursday, March 8th, local Historic City News reporters in St Augustine learned that convicted killer Norman Blake McKenzie filed a motion in the St Johns County Circuit Court to vacate the judgment of his conviction and sentence.

Today, Circuit Judge Wendy Berger released a thirteen-page order denying McKenzie’s motion for post-conviction relief.

McKenzie sits on Florida’s death row — convicted at trial for using a hatchet and a butcher knife to kill two men in St Johns County; Randy Wayne Peacock and Charles Frank Johnston.

Prosecutors said McKenzie took the victims’ wallets, cash, credit cards, and fled in Peacock’s car, making robbery the motive for the two murders.

On August 7, 2007, McKenzie requested that the court allow him to represent himself. At a hearing on August 10, 2007, his request was granted.

A jury trial was held on August 20 and 21, 2007 in St Johns County and McKenzie was found guilty as charged. Following the verdict, the defendant requested appointed counsel for the penalty phase, and the Public Defender was appointed.

McKenzie requested, again, to represent himself and, after a hearing was held, his request was granted. The penalty phase took place on August 23, 2007. The jury recommended the death penalty.

The instant Motion to Vacate Judgment of Conviction and Sentence was filed on September 15, 2011. However, McKenzie failed to demonstrate prejudice; such as the reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s error, the result in the case would have been different.

Judge Berger denied the request for an evidentiary hearing based on McKenzie’s claim of “ineffective assistance of counsel”.

Judge Berger wrote in her order that the Court finds McKenzie’s claim that the State denied him a full and fair sentencing has no merit.

In Court on July 11, 2007, while still represented by counsel, defendant made it clear that he did not want a continuance and that he wanted to go to trial as soon as possible. Judge Berger wrote, “Additionally, Defendant voluntarily chose to represent himself and assumed the consequences of such representation; therefore, he cannot complain that he received ineffective assistance of counsel.”

McKenzie also claimed he was denied meaningful access to the court because he was not given access to a law library.

Judge Berger ruled that the defendant was appropriately informed of the limited access he would have to legal materials when the defendant chose to waive his right to assistance of competent counsel. Judge Berger referenced court transcripts documenting the defendant being informed of the limited access to legal materials while incarcerated.

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