Supreme Court lets stand the murder conviction and death sentence of James Terry Colley, Jr

In a 32-page opinion released Wednesday, the Florida Supreme Court unanimously rejected an appeal by former St Johns County resident James Terry Colley, Jr., who raised a series of issues concerning his conviction including that he had been impaired in 2015, because of taking the sedative Ambien, when he fatally shot his estranged wife and one of her friends.

At the time of the conviction and sentencing, Bryan L. Shorstein reported to Historic City News the successful prosecution of the case by Jennifer Dunton and Mark Johnson who were assigned to the Homicide Investigative Unit.  Dunton was the lead prosecutor.

“Colley was under a domestic violence injunction at the time of the shootings.  He suspected that his estranged wife was dating another man and wanted to reconcile with her,” the opinion said.  “He had appeared in court less than two hours before the shootings on a violation of the domestic violence injunction.”

The state presented evidence, on appeal, that Colley

  • calmly and rationally participated in a court hearing less than two hours before the murders
  • calmly shopped at a gas station less than a half-hour before the murders
  • armed himself in advance of traveling to the murder location
  • had a 20-minute car drive during which to contemplate his intended actions
  • rejected his father’s plea shortly before the murders to turn back
  • approached the murder scene in a manner designed to conceal himself
  • began shooting from outside his estranged wife’s home
  • the victims of Colley’s rampage did not provoke him in any way

Justices found that Colley, now 40, was properly convicted of killing his estranged wife, Amanda Cloaninger Colley, as she tried to hide from him in a bathroom in her home.  According to the Supreme Court opinion, he was also properly convicted of murdering Lindy Dobbins, who was hiding behind a chest of drawers in a closet when she was shot. 

The Justices also found that Colley was properly convicted of attempted-murder charges related to two other people who escaped from the home with their lives.