Jason Derrick

Pasco County, Florida
Date of Crime:  June 25, 1987

Samuel Jason Derrick was sentenced to death for the murder of Rama Sharma. Sharma, 55, owned the Moon Lake General Store and was found dead behind the store. Following the murder, police received a tip that a car was seen driving suspiciously around the crime scene vicinity in the early morning hours of June 25, 1987, prior to the finding of the victim's body. The description of the car, including a partial license plate number, seemed to match that of a car driven by David Lowry. Lowry deflected the investigation away from himself by implicating Derrick, who was then his friend. At trial, five Pasco County detectives swore under oath that Derrick confessed to the crime. There was no written, audio, or video record of this “confession” or any interrogation notes written by any of the five detectives. The Pasco County Sheriff's Office had a reputation for corruption. Just two years earlier, St. Petersburg Times reporter Lucy Morgan won a Pulitzer Prize for her series of articles documenting this corruption.

The prosecution case contained numerous inconsistencies: (1) Lowry testified that he saw Derrick with a double-edged knife on the evening of June 24. This was shortly before the murder according to the prosecution theory. However, the medical examiner determined that the victim's stab wounds were made with a single-edged knife. (2) Detectives testified that Derrick confessed to stabbing the victim 13 times. However, the medical examiner determined that the victim was stabbed 33 times. (3) Detectives testified that Derrick admitted committing the crime at 10:30 p.m. on June 24, 1987. However, the medical examiner testified that the time of death was 6:00 a.m. the following morning. (4) Detectives testified that Derrick said he threw the murder knife in the woods, and his bloody shirt and shoes in a pond. However, they never located this evidence or any other physical evidence linking Derrick to the crime.

Prosecutor Michael Halkitis repeatedly discredited the testimony of his own witness, that of Medical Examiner Edward Corcoran. In his closing arguments, he informed the jury that Mr. Corcoran was mistaken about the time of death. Other evidence supports Derrick's claim of innocence. A witness, Shannon Loyce, testified that she saw Sharma alive between 2:15 and 2:30 a.m. on June 25, 1987. A trial juror, Nancy Rocco, sent a letter to the St. Petersburg Press, and subsequently signed an affidavit stating that she “now knows the state did not prove its case.” In 2002, another man had made statements implicating himself in Sharma's murder.  [4/08]


References:  www.savejasonderrick.org, St. Petersburg TimesJustice: Denied

Posted in:  Victims of the State, Northern Florida Cases, Timeline Discrepancies, Inconsistent Confessions