Friday, December 1, 2006

Lawyers For Angel Diaz Seek Delay Of Execution

Lawyers For Angel Diaz Seek Delay Of Execution

POSTED: 5:38 pm EST November 30, 2006
UPDATED: 5:42 pm EST November 30, 2006

MIAMI -- Lawyers for a convicted killer were in a Miami courtroom on Thursday, pitching a last-minute bid to delay his death.

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Angel Diaz is due to be executed Dec. 13 for the robbery and murder of a Miami-Dade County bar manager in 1979. But now, Diaz's lawyer argues that new testimony should delay the planned execution.

Diaz was sentenced to death 21 years ago. He and two others were accused of bursting into The Velvet Swing strip club, robbing patrons and shooting the bar manager.

Diaz has been on death row since the conviction -- far longer than the average stay of 13 years.

On Thursday, Diaz's lawyer asked a Miami judge to delay his death to explore new evidence.

"The jailhouse snitch who testified at trial was untruthful," said attorney Suzanne Keffer.

The so-called snitch is Ralph Gajus, who was an inmate at Dade County Jail in 1984. His cell was across the hall from Diaz's.

At trial, Gajus testified that Diaz led him to believe he pulled the trigger that night at The Velvet Swing.

But in an affidavit signed last week, Gajus swore he lied about it, claiming he was mad because Diaz had left him out of an escape plan
"He was supposed to be part of this escape attempt, but was left out. He was angry about that," Keffer said.

Diaz's lawyer said Gajus also lied so that police would help him get his own murder sentence reduced.

But prosecutors argued that the death penalty Diaz received in 1986 was appropriate and cited a Supreme Court opinion that suggested who pulled the trigger isn't crucial.

"We've already determined that death is appropriate even assuming insufficient evidence that Diaz shot the victim," said Assistant Attorney General Sandra Jaggard.

The judge who imposed the death sentence two decades ago, Amy Steel Donner, must now decide whether to delay the execution so that Gajus' claims can be explored further.

NBC 6's Nick Bogert reported that the Supreme Court wants Donner's opinion written no later than Sunday
Previous Story:
November 27, 2006: Miami Killer Asks Supreme Court To Block Execution

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