As reported by both the Tampa Tribune and the Tampa Bay Times, defense attorney Bjorn Brunvandrepresents accused murderer Oscar Ray Bolin in his retrial on murder charges this week. Bolin is charged in Hillsborough County with the 1986 murder of Natalie Holley. This is the fourth trial Bolin has faced on those charges.
In opening statements Tuesday, prosecutors told jurors they would hear a two-decade-old recording in which Bolin’s now-deceased ex-wife Cheryl described Bolin in blood-stained sneakers searching through a woman’s purse he’d brought home at 2 in the morning. Her testimony was used to convict Bolin in three previous trials that were later overturned on appeals.
She didn’t come forward, however, with this information until four years after the killing, after she had remarried.
The court will not allow the jury to be told that Bolin has been sentenced to death twice for Holley’s murder. After a third trial, he was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life. That conviction was overturned on appeal. He now faces second-degree murder charges again. The legal concept of double jeopardy prohibits the prosecution from pursuing a first-degree murder conviction and the death penalty because he was found not guilty of the higher charge in the last trial.
Witnesses at trial include Bolin’s ex-wife (via a recording), who was legally blind at the time of the Holley murder, Bolin’s cousin (who claims Bolin confessed to him, although the cousin didn’t tell investigators until 20 years after the homicide) and many retired law enforcement officers.
In his opening statement, defense attorney Brunvand said he will focus on inconsistencies in testimony from past trials that add up to “snapshots of innocence” for Bolin. “No one deserves to die as Natalie Holley did,” he said, “but the evidence does not establish that Oscar Ray Bolin committed the gruesome crime.”
After the state presented its evidence on Tuesday and Wednesday, the defense presented its case including information about some questionable associates of Holley. After also presenting testimony that no fingerprints of Bolin’s were ever found and that Bolin’s ex-wife was given a “substantial” reward from Crime Stoppers, the defense rested. Closing arguments begin in the morning.