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New public defender appointed for Howard Ault

Fort Lauderdale man on death row for killing 2 sisters found in attic of home

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Howard Ault found himself back in court Thursday as the state readies a new sentencing trial in the 1999 death penalty case against him.

"I would like to talk about setting up some deadlines. They're not cast in stone, but it gives everyone a framework," Broward County Judge Tim Bailey said.

Ault was on death row for the 1996 murder of two sisters whose bodies were found in the attic of his Fort Lauderdale home. 

The 49-year-old's case is one of hundreds across the state that were affected by a Florida Supreme Court ruling last year that called the penalty process unconstitutional. 

At issue are cases in which jurors didn't come back with a unanimous decision on whether to execute a convicted killer. 

Ault's initial sentencing trial was appealed and later upheld in 2007, but not by a unanimous decision. 

In addition, the state has said some witnesses in the case have died, and it was unclear if evidence in the case has made its way back to Broward County from the Supreme Court facilities in Tallahassee. 

When asked if he wanted the court to appoint a new attorney, Ault agreed.

"Your honor, I would like the court to appoint the public defender's office," Ault said.  

Bailey appointed a public defender for Ault but did not get into the details of a new sentencing trial, including witness testimony and the evidence in the now 21-year-old case. 

Another hearing is scheduled for next week.