The Miami appellate court that reversed the murder conviction against John Connolly has decided to take yet another look at the case — meaning the former Boston FBI agent won’t be leaving prison soon.
In a rare decision, the Third District Court of Appeal this week ruled it will allow all 10 of its judges to hear the prosecution’s bid to keep Connolly in prison for the 1982 murder of a gambling executive.
It was more than five months ago that a panel of three judges, in a 2-1 decision, threw out Connolly’s conviction on a legal technicality. And even that decision was a legal rarity — three years earlier, the same panel had upheld the ex-agent’s conviction with no written opinion.
Even though Connolly’s conviction was reversed in May, he has remained imprisoned in northern Florida as prosecutors asked the court to reconsider.
“We’re disappointed,” James McDonald, one of Connolly’s attorneys, said of this week’s ruling.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, in a statement, said she was “pleased” at the appeals court decision.
“There are important issues here which are in conflict and this will allow those conflicts to be resolved,” she said.
The Third DCA, in a one-page order, said it will schedule a hearing soon.
Connolly, whose twisted relationship as the FBI handler of notorious gangster James “Whitey” Bulger became crime lore in Boston, had been serving 40 years in prison for the Miami murder.
In the Miami case, prosecutors say Connolly told Bulger’s gang that jai-alai executive John Callahan might cooperate in the probe of an earlier mob murder. The mobsters dispatched a hit man who killed Callahan and left his corpse inside a Cadillac trunk at Miami International Airport.
Miami jurors convicted Connolly in 2008 of a lesser charge: second-degree murder, which back in the early 1980s carried only a four-year statute of limitations.
But prosecutors argued that the use of a firearm during the crime was an “enhancement” that rendered it a felony punishable by up to life in prison — with no statute of limitations.
Why? Because Connolly carried his service weapon while revealing the sensitive information that doomed Callahan during a meeting in New England several weeks before the fatal shooting.
But the Third DCA in May ruled that the gun had no connection to the murder.