Accused Seminole Heights serial killer wants death penalty tossed in case

The accused Seminole Heights serial killer will be in a Tampa courtroom Thursday to fight for his life. 

Howell Trae Donaldson wants the death penalty tossed out from his case, calling it unconstitutional. He is accused of causing terror and panic in Seminole Heights in the fall of 2017.

Prosecutors said he gunned down four people; Benjamin Mitchell, Monica Hoffa, Anthony Naiboa, and Ronald Felton; who happened to be walking alone. After Donaldson was arrested and indicted by a grand jury, prosecutors announced they would seek the death penalty.

It will be up to a Tampa judge to decide whether capital punishment stays or goes from this case. 

Defense attorney Anthony Rickman, who is not connected to this case, believes the defense is laying the groundwork for future appeals.

"Any motion not filed, anything not addressed at the trial level is waived, so what they are doing is filing this motion, putting it on the record, and it gives them one more avenue to appeal at the end of the day, if he is convicted and sentenced to death," explained Rickman.

PREVIOUS: Accused Seminole Heights serial killer wants to prevent victim’s parents from testifying

In this jailhouse visit with his parents, Donaldson said his spirit is broken but thankful to be alive. But more court filings show his defense team is mounting a legal battle to get other evidence thrown out or severely limit it.

For instance, victim impact statements from the families of the victims. These statements would be heard in the penalty phase of the trial if Donaldson was convicted.

The defense wants to limit the number to people who testify and only allow "immediate family" members. They said it could inflame the jury and that would be extremely dangerous.

Prosecutors are fighting it, arguing the State Supreme court believes family impact testimony plays an important role in the legal process. 

Donaldson's hearing is set for Thursday afternoon.