Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Condemned inmate offers new evidence

November 28, 2006


Condemned inmate offers new evidence

A convicted killer set to die Dec. 13 has asked the state Supreme Court for a stay of execution and a new appeal.
Associated Press

A Death Row inmate convicted of fatally shooting a Miamitopless club manager nearly 27 years ago asked the Florida Supreme Court on Monday to block his execution next month.

A lawyer for Angel Diaz, who is scheduled to die Dec. 13, also asked the justices to consider new information in the case, a sworn statement from another inmate who recanted his trial testimony that Diaz had confessed to him.

Ralph Gajus said in the statement that he lied on the witness stand in 1984 because he was angry with Diaz for not including him in an escape plan and believed police would help him get a reduced sentence in exchange for his testimony.

Gajus, later sentenced to 20 years for second-degree murder, said he did not understand Spanish so they communicated in hand signs and the broken English that Diaz spoke when both were inmates at the Miami-Dade County Jail.

''Angel Diaz acted out the shooting using his hands,'' Gajus said in thestatement. `

`I do not know what really happened or whether Angel Diaz did the shooting.

Angel Diaz never told me he shot anyone.

''Diaz's lawyer, Suzanne Myers Keffer, wrote that she was unable to obtain sworn statements from all the necessary witnesses until Monday, six days after a trial judge had denied all pending motions in the case.

She asked the high court to send the case back to Circuit Court for a hearing on whether to grant a new trial because of the recanted testimony or else allow her to argue that issue on appeal.

''It is not appropriate to raise new issues for the first time on appeal; however, these are unique circumstances and time constraints are pressing,''she wrote.

The trial court had rejected Diaz's challenge to Florida's lethal injection procedure on grounds it is unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment.Three other inmates executed this year made the same argument without success.

Keffer contends the appeal also includes new evidence on that issue the Supreme Court did not consider in the other cases.

The justices have given Diaz and the state until Thursday afternoon to file written arguments.

Diaz was convicted of first-degree murder after defending himself at trial with help from a standby lawyer.

The victim, Joseph Nagy, was shot with asilencer-equipped gun when Diaz and two accomplices robbed The Velvet Swingon Dec. 22, 1979.

Diaz escaped from prison in his native Puerto Rico, where he was serving a sentence for second-degree murder, about three months before the Florida killing.
Diaz also escaped from the Hartford Correctional Center inConnecticut in 1981. He held one guard at knifepoint while another wasbeaten as he and three other inmates escaped, according to court records.
---Source : Associated Press

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