Thursday, December 7, 2006

Death Row inmate appeals to stop execution

Posted on Thu, Dec. 07, 2006

Death Row inmate appeals to stop execution

A gang member sought to avert his execution next week in a 1979 murder at a Miami topless lounge.


TALLAHASSEE - Angel Diaz, a murderous prison escapee and suspected member of the ''Machete Men'' Puerto Rican terror gang, made one of his last appeals Thursday to the Florida Supreme Court claiming he was sentenced wrongly to die for his role in the 1979 murder of the manager of a Miami topless lounge.

At the heart of his appeal: ''Jail house snitch'' Ralph Gajus signed an affidavit recanting some of his trial testimony identifying Diaz as the shooter in the murder-robbery at the Velvet Swing lounge on Southwest Eighth Street.

But through their questions, the justices seemed to agree with prosecutors and a lower court judge that Gajus' recantation wasn't really new or outcome-changing.

''The alleged recantation is nothing more than semantics,'' Justice Charlie T. Wells said, reading from a trial-court ruling. ``And it certainly appears to me, from my reading of it, that it's correct.''

Diaz's lawyer, Suzanne Meyers Keffer, said Gajus' affidavit was important because it contradicted statements used to justify sentencing Diaz, now 58. Diaz is scheduled to be executed Dec. 13 by lethal injection, which he says is an unconstitutionally cruel punishment. Amnesty International and some politicians and activists in Puerto Rico have called for a commuted sentence as well.

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