Judge orders new death sentence for man in 1998 murder

Posted on September 12, 2018 by Staff reports

State Attorney Bill Eddins this afternoon announced that First Judicial Circuit Judge David Rimmer today sentenced Jonathan Huey Lawrence to death for the 1998 murder of Jennifer Robinson.

A Santa Rosa County jury had previously in 2000 recommended the death penalty by an 11-1 verdict.

However, due to the Hurst rulings, which require a unanimous verdict to impose the death penalty, a new penalty phase for Lawrence began June 4, 2018.

Prior to today’s hearing, the defendant waived his right to present mitigation and have a jury decide his fate. 

Additionally, per court records, Lawrence in an August 14, 2017 handwritten letter to the Court had asked for his death sentence to be reinstated, stating he had been trying for 10 years to get his attorney to drop his appeals.

“I’m guilty of all my charges and deserve my death sentence. I’ve had no intentions of putting the families, friends and loved ones of the innocent people I deliberately helped murder through for all these 20 long years of grief, suffering and loss to have to indure (sic) more, they deserve justice and every amount of peace my death sentence and conclusion might give them,” Lawrence wrote.

Rimmer’s written order restated some of the facts of the case, including how Lawrence and a co-defendent, Jeremiah Rodgers, had on May 7, 1988 picked up Robinson, who was 18 at the time.

According to the court documents, Robinson was fatally shot in the back of the head by Rodgers, and Lawrence, who had met while both were being held at a state mental hospital in Chattahoochee.

Lawrence removed one of Robinson’s calf muscles after she died, Rodgers took photos of Lawrence with the body before they buried it.

Other evidence found in the case included an anatomy book entitled The Incredible Machine within which had been marked female anatomy pages and pen lines drawn at the calf section of a leg.

Lawrence subsequently confessed to his involvement after waiving his Miranda rights. 

Additionally, the two men on March 29, 1998 had participated in the attempted murder of an elderly victim, who was shot in the back while watching television with his family and on April 9, 1998 murdered Lawrence’s cousin, Justin Livingston by repeatedly stabbing and trying to strangle him.

Lawrence made tape-recorded confessions to the Livingston and Robinson murders and led cops to both bodies.

“Although mentally disturbed, the facts fail to establish the Defendent’s mental and/or emotional disturbances deprived him of sufficient self-control or were a predominant cause or influence upon his criminal behavior during this criminal episode,” stated court records.

Rodgers’ death sentence in February 2018 was upheld by the Florida Supreme Court.