Wednesday, November 15, 2006

DEATH ROW: Death warrant ends 20 years of appeals


TALLAHASSEE - Angel Diaz, the convicted murderer and two-time jail-breaker whose 1979 shooting of a Miami barkeep put him on Florida's Death Row, will be executed next month, Gov. Jeb Bush said Tuesday.

A death warrant signed by the governor sets Diaz's death by lethal injection for the week of Dec. 11 through Dec. 20, ending the murderer's 20-year stay on Death Row and 13 legal appeals.

Diaz, 58, was convicted in December 1986 of killing Joseph Nagy, manager of the Velvet Swing, a dicey bar on Southwest Eighth Street, one of the toughest areas of 1979 Miami. He locked several customers into a restroom at gunpoint, leaving no witnesses and no obvious trail.

Police revived the cold case in 1984 when a jailhouse snitch in Boston bragged of being Diaz's accomplice. Angel Toro, who was serving a life sentence for a Boston murder, pleaded guilty to Nagy's murder and received another life sentence.

Diaz, who was believed to have been a leader of a Puerto Rican terrorist gang called Los Macheteros, Spanish for ''machete men,'' was sentenced to 834 years in prison in addition to death for the Velvet Swing killing.

His record includes a life sentence for murder in Puerto Rico, from where he escaped, for killing the director of the prison's drug rehabilitation project. He later escaped from a Connecticut prison and unsuccessfully attempted to break out of the Dade County jail.

''May God have mercy on your soul,'' Dade Circuit Judge Amy Steele Donner said as she imposed the death sentence. ``The court has found that you have total disregard for human life and the welfare of others.''

Diaz attempted several appeals over 20 years and faced one previous death warrant, issued by former Gov. Bob Martinez in 1989. He exhausted his last appeal in December 2005, when the U.S. Supreme Court denied his petition for a court review.

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