Jailhouse informants used as prosecution witnesses at James Dailey’s trial: Part 5

After his co-defendant Jack Pearcy received a life sentence for Shelly Boggio’s 1985 murder, Dailey went to trial, where prosecutors used jailhouse informants to win a conviction.
7:14 | 10/24/20

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Transcript for Jailhouse informants used as prosecution witnesses at James Dailey’s trial: Part 5
Six months after the murder of Shelly Boggio, James Dailey is arrested far away in Monterrey, California. James Dailey says after leaving Florida he had first gone to Arizona where he met a guy who offered him a job in California. He was looking for somebody to go to California with him to help him remodel this restaurant. And I'd done a lot of cabinet work and stuff, so I said, hey, I'm looking for a job. He said, well, you want to go to California? I said, heck yeah. But detectives in Florida track him down in California some 2,800 miles away. When you were first arrested and you felt those cuffs binding your wrists, what was that like? I just said, man, you guys got the wrong guy. Could you see how it seems suspicious that so shortly after the murder, first you go to Miami and then you go clear across the country to California? Yeah, but if I was going to hide, don't you think I would use a different name? I'm not hiding from anybody. I didn't know I was supposed to be hiding anybody. They had to extradite him back to Florida. James Dailey and jack Pearcy, who had been arrested months earlier, are now both locked up in the pinellas county jail to await trial. In the end, jack Pearcy fails to convince prosecutors that he's an innocent bystander and that James Dailey is the sole killer of Shelly Boggio. They are both indicted. Pearcy is tried first. Jack Pearcy went to trial in November of 1986, right before Thanksgiving. Our defense of Mr. Pearcy was the other guy did it. Pearcy was along for the ride and Dailey was the guy that -- that did everything. But that defense strategy does not work and Pearcy is convicted. The jury convicts Pearcy quickly but then takes mercy on him, recommending life in prison instead of a death sentence. The following summer, it's James Dailey's turn to stand trial. He didn't have a history of violence against women. He didn't have a motive. There was no eyewitnesses placing him at the scene. There was just no evidence. The state's theory was, that jack, Jim Dailey, and Shelly left and that they drove around. Then they went to the waterside. And that was when they -- they -- excuse me. It was at that point where, evidently, I guess they thought they had enough of Shelly and they stabbed her she was put underwater. She was drowned. Dead. The jury never heard Dailey's explanation for having those wet pants, that he'd been playing Frisbee and chased the disc into the water. James Dailey never took the witness stand. He sat there looking like a lawyer for the entire week and said nothing. No emotion. No outburst of, "I didn't do that." I don't know why my attorney at that trial said that he didn't want me to testify, because he couldn't believe that we played Frisbee. Your attorney advised you not to testify. Yeah. I wanted to testify. I wanted to get up and tell what really happened. I think he should have taken the stand. I would have loved to hear what he had to say. As prosecutors wrap up their case, among their last witnesses are a trio of jailhouse informants. Now, we've all seen this movie before, right? Dramatic testimony from a jailhouse witness claiming he heard a confession. Jailhouse snitches, they've been used since the beginning of time. Detectives can place a defendant in the same jail cell with a snitch. It's legal. It's fine. They become friends. And people really do talk. In Dailey's case, two snitches testify he made incriminating statements, but then the third inmate takes the stand, and he's a show-stopper. His name is Paul skalnik, and James Dailey's lawyers say his testimony sealed Dailey's fate. Skalnik testifies that Dailey confessed to him in jail. He says that Dailey told him he stabbed Shelly and she was staring up at him and that she was screaming and would not die. He stabbed her, he continued to stab her, she wouldn't die, was, I think, the quote. What was your reaction when you heard skalnik on the stand testifying against you? Well, other than disbelief, other than trying to tell my attorney that never happened, it was just sickening. You never confessed to him, you say. Oh, absolutely not. Absolutely not. That was actually the only information that we ever got that supposedly came from James Dailey, because he never took the witness stand. So everything -- if we were to believe what the snitches were saying, that was the only way we could hear James Dailey's voice. So it was very interesting listening to the snitches. Powerful stuff, if it's believed. And the jury obviously decided to believe. James Dailey is convicted, and he's sentenced to die in the electric chair. You could hear kind of cheering in the back. I don't know how anybody could cheer at a death sentence. Did you murder Shelly Boggio? No, I did not. I had nothing to do with her death whatsoever. Have I felt guilt from it? Absolutely. Why would you feel guilt if you didn't -- I wished I could have done something to stop it. I didn't know pear cy's record. I thought he was take her home. James Dailey's word against Paul skalnik. Who to believe? I wouldn't believe him as far as I could throw him. Turns out there was something the jury didn't know about that jailhouse snitch, Paul skalnik. I'm pretty familiar with Paul skalnik. I asked him how many times he'd actually been listed as a witness by the state, and he told me 28 times. We thought that it would help to know more about skalnik, maybe even talk to him. I just left the prison here, the Florida state prison, interviewing Jim Dailey. He says the reason he's on death row is because you lied.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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