Tampa Bay Times examines a Death Row inmate’s 42-year fight for justice

Wednesday, November 21, 2018 12:00 AM

TAMPA BAY, FL – A jury convicted Tommy Zeigler in 1976 for the Christmas Eve murders of his wife, in-laws and another man who was a frequent customer at his Winter Garden furniture store. At the time, crime scene evidence, witness testimony and experts’ analysis seemed to provide an airtight case against Ziegler.

Now 73 and on Florida’s Death Row, Zeigler still maintains his innocence. Those who worked to convict him continue to believe they got the right man. But in the four decades since the murders, serious questions about what happened that night in Zeigler’s furniture store have taken root.

Did blood spatter experts and police rely on what is now widely considered junk science? Would evidence withheld by prosecutors at the trial have resulted in a different outcome? Was a juror who was reluctant to convict Zeigler given Valium so deliberations could continue? Was Zeigler framed?

Starting Sunday, the Tampa Bay Times kicks off a six-part series that examines Zeigler’s case. DNA tests could settle the matter once and for all. But Zeigler is one of about two dozen Florida inmates who have been regularly denied DNA testing despite a 2001 state law. His case, which has been heard on appeals many times, requires special permission to have evidence retested by today’s forensics standards. Judges continue to refuse.

The six-part series, Blood And Truth, kicks off on Sunday, Nov. 25, in print and at tampabay.com. The series will run on consecutive days through Nov. 30. Readers also can follow the discussion on Twitter at #BloodAndTruth.

About the Tampa Bay Times

The Tampa Bay Times is widely considered one of the Top Ten newspapers in America and has won 12 Pulitzer Prizes. It is Florida’s largest newspaper, with an average circulation of 332,294 on Sundays and 205,201 daily (Quarterly 2017 AAM reports). The Times also publishes tampabay.com – Tampa Bay’s largest local news Web site with about 4.3 million unique visitors each month (comScore three-month average, 2/18-4/18) and tbo.com.

Additionally, the company publishes the free weekly tbt*, an edition of the Tamp a Bay Times, Florida Trend magazine and Bay magazine.