PORT CHARLOTTE Fla.- Dwight Eaglin was sentenced to death in 2006 for killing prison guard Darla Lathrem and inmate Charles Fuston in an attempted escape. Eaglin was behind bars at the time, serving a life sentence for a 1998 murder. Now, one of Charlotte County's most notorious killers has returned to court. Eaglin will be appearing in front of circuit judge Christine Greider all week for an evidentiary hearing presenting testimony that his lawyers hope will land him a new trial.
Eaglin's attorney William Hennis presented judge Grieder with testimony from Eaglins older brother Kennith about how the two were abuse by their father when they were young. “The jury never heard any of the information about Dwight Eaglins mental illnesses, his bipolar disorder, his tragic family life of abuse,” said Hennis. Kennith Eaglin is a twenty year veteran of the U.S. Navy with a rank of Chief Petty Officer. The Older Eaglin traveled to Punta Gorda from Northfolk Virginia to testify on behalf of his brother. The seasoned sailor broke down while telling the court how their father beat them to the point of breaking one of Dwights legs. He even made the children fight each other for his amusement. “He would make Tommy and Jimmy fight me and whoever lost got a spanking,” Eaglin sobbed as he sat on the witness stand.
The one thing missing today was Dwight Eaglin's characteristic grin that became a talking point during his many court appearances. Something his own attorney says is a sign of his mental instability. “One of the problems with people who have a serious psychiatric disorder like bipolar disorder is they have periods when they are manic and they have periods when they are depressive,” said Hennis. As the older Eaglin finished his testimony, he had one request for the judge. He asked to be able to touch his brother. Judge Grieder deferred the question to the court bailiff who declined the request. Eaglin's attorneys say that optimally they would like to see a whole new trial for Dwight but they will settle for a new penalty phase where they want to get his sentence reduced from death to life.
Steven Smith and Mike Jones were also convicted in the murders. Smith was also given the death sentence but Jones received life in prison after pleading guilty to the charges.