Death row inmate Steven Douglas Hayward is returning to a St. Lucie County
courtroom Monday morning in hopes of convincing a judge he deserves a new trial
in the 2005 shooting death of Daniel DeStefano, a Fort Pierce Tribune newspaper
Hayward was convicted and sentenced to death June 1, 2007 for robbing and
shooting DeStefano in the chest and thigh as the 32-year-old DeStefano was
delivering newspapers to convenience stores along Avenue D in Fort Pierce about
4 a.m. Feb. 1, 2005.
In 2009, the Florida Supreme Court upheld Hayward's 1st-degree murder
conviction and death sentence.
In court this week, attorneys representing Hayward are expected to argue he
should be granted a new trial due to errors his defense attorneys committed
during his trial.
Among the issues raised, Hayward claims his former attorneys failed to offer
evidence that police had suspected someone else prior to his arrest, and they
failed to get the court to exclude statements made by DeStefano at the time of
the shooting, and telling a Fort Pierce police officer that he had shot back at
DeStefano died at Lawnwood Regional Medical Center & Heart Institute a day
after the shooting from internal bleeding. Hayward was arrested a few days
later. His blood was found on DeStefano's faded blue jeans, where he had
reached into the fallen man's pockets to remove $10 in cash.
The DeStefano killing was Hayward's second murder conviction: In February 1988,
he shot and killed Sebien DeRoche outside a Fort Pierce bar. He pleaded no
contest to 2nd-degree murder and armed robbery. He was sentenced to 35 years in
prison, but left after 16 years because of state laws at the time that allowed
for an early release.
His post conviction hearings before Circuit Judge James McCann are expected to
last all week.
(source: TC Palm)