Tuesday, November 28, 2006 Story last updated at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 28, 2006
State: Recanted testimony not new in Diaz murder case
By BILL KACZOR Associated Press Writer
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A jailhouse snitch's recanted testimony is nothing new, so it should not be included in an appeal by a death row inmate set for execution next month, the state argued Tuesday in papers filed with the Florida Supreme Court.
Angel Diaz is scheduled to die Dec. 13 for killing the manager of a Miami topless club. He had asked the justices to consider the recanted testimony in his pending appeal or send the case back to a trial court for a ruling on whether he should get a new trial
Diaz has been raising the recanted testimony claim for the past 17 years, wrote Assistant Attorney General Sandra Jaggard.
The only thing new this time is a sworn statement by Ralph Gajus, an inmate who says he falsely claimed Diaz had implied being the triggerman, she said.
Gajus had testified Diaz spoke with a heavy Spanish accent, but that while both were inmates at the Miami-Dade County Jail, he had indicated through hand gestures he shot the victim in the chest.
Joseph Nagy was shot on Dec. 22, 1978, when Diaz and two accomplices robbed The Velvet Swing. One of the accomplices, Angel Toro, entered a plea agreement and was sentenced to life in prison after other evidence was presented implicating Toro as the triggerman.
In the sworn statement, Gajus said he lied on the witness stand in 1984 because he was angry with Diaz for failing to include him in a plan to escape and that police had promised to help him with his case.
Gajus later was sentenced to 20 years in prison for second-degree murder.
Jaggard also noted the Supreme Court in an earlier appeal ruled death was an appropriate punishment even if Diaz did not fire the fatal shot. Under Florida's felony murder law, a person who commits a crime that results in a death is just as culpable as the one who caused the death.
Diaz's lawyer, Suzanne Myers Keffer, also contends he should not be executed because he is mentally ill and Florida's lethal injection procedure constitutes unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment.
Three other death row inmates who were executed this year also made the latter argument without success.
Diaz has a long criminal history including a second-degree murder conviction and escape in his native Puerto Rico and another escape in Connecticut.