TALLAHASSEE - Pointing to a judge’s decision to reject a continuance of the case after DNA evidence emerged, an appeals court Friday ordered a new trial for a Flagler County woman convicted of murdering her husband in 2017.
The decision by a three-judge panel of the 5th District Court of Appeal reversed the first-degree murder conviction of Dorothy Singer in the death of her husband, Charles. The appeals court said prosecutors produced a Florida Department of Law Enforcement report 12 days before the trial that indicated blood found on Singer’s bed headboard matched her husband’s DNA.
Singer’s attorney argued for a continuance to have an expert review the report and help prepare to cross-examine the state’s expert witness.
The circuit judge, however, denied a continuance --- a decision that prompted the appeals court to order a new trial.
“As to the time for preparation, the experience of counsel and complexity of the case, defense counsel had only 12 days to analyze the FDLE report,” said Friday’s ruling, written by appeals-court Judge Eric Eisnaugle and joined by judges Meredith Sasso and Bruce Jacobus. “Based on counsel’s limited experience with DNA cases and lack of familiarity with FDLE’s current procedures, combined with the complexity of the expert report at issue here, we conclude that 12 days was wholly inadequate to prepare for trial.”
The ruling did not provide extensive detail about the case, but a 2018 Daytona Beach News-Journal story about the conviction said Charles Singer’s body was found buried under a boat in the backyard of the couple’s home.
Dorothy Singer said she killed him after he attacked her outside the home, the News-Journal reported. She hid his death for nearly two months before the body was discovered. The appeals court said Friday that the defense attorney was “forced to proceed to trial unprepared” on the DNA issue.
“We recognize the trial courts’ busy dockets and the need to effectively and efficiently dispose of cases,” the ruling said. “Therefore, trial courts are often faced with a difficult balance when a party seeks to continue a long-scheduled trial. However, docket management, the expense of a continuance, and the trial court’s assumption that an FDLE report is unassailable do not override a defendant’s due process rights to an adequate opportunity to prepare for trial and to challenge the state’s evidence.”