State Supreme Court sends Miami topless murder case back to trial court
Posted November 29 2006, 3:35 PM EST
A trial court will decide if a death row inmate set for execution next month should get a new trial because a key witness has recanted his testimony, the Florida Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.
The high court voted 5-2 to grant the request by Angel Diaz to order that a circuit judge in Miami consider the recanted testimony issue.
The justices also ordered that the ruling must be made by 5 p.m. Sunday. It then can be appealed to the Supreme Court.
Diaz is scheduled to die Dec. 13 for the fatal shooting of a Miami topless club manager in 1979.
Another inmate at the Miami-Dade County Jail, Ralph Gajus, testified at his 1984 trial that Diaz, who spoke only in broken English, used hand signs to imply he was the triggerman.
A lawyer for Diaz asked the high court to send the case back to the trial court to consider a recently obtained sworn statement from Gajus saying that he lied on the witness stand.
Gajus said in the statement that he was angry with Diaz for leaving him out of a plan to escape and police promised to help him with his case if he testified.
Gajus later was sentenced to 20 years in prison for second-degree murder.
Justices Charles Wells and Kenneth Bell dissented from the high court's decision without explanation.
The state argued Diaz made the same argument about the recanted testimony in prior appeals so he should be barred from raising it again although the sworn statement is new.
The high court set a Monday deadline for appealing the trial court's ruling.
Diaz also has appealed to the justices on other grounds.
Diaz previously was convicted of another murder in his native Puerto Rico. He also escaped from prisons there and in Connecticut.