Monday, December 4, 2006
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Governor Jeb Ellis Bush
I appeal to you to do everything in your power to stop the execution of Puerto Rican national Angel Nieves Diaz. Mr. Diaz is scheduled to be executed on December 13, 2006, for the 1979 death of Joseph Nagy.
Post-conviction assessments by two mental health experts concluded that Angel Diaz suffers from certain mental disorders, which contributed to his decision to represent himself and undermined his ability to do so competently. The presiding trial judge allowed Mr. Diaz to represent himself even though Mr. Diaz spoke minimal English, had no knowledge about the law, and had not even completed high school. Many mentally ill defendants have insisted on representing themselves despite widespread evidence of their incompetence to do so.
Moreover, during the sentencing phase of this trial, acute disparities in sentencing became apparent. Despite conflicting evidence about the actual gunman and the use of unreliable testimony by a jailhouse informant, one defendant received a life sentence while Mr. Diaz was condemned to death. Furthermore, evidence was not raised at the trial about Mr. Diaz’s childhood abuse, history of mental problems, and issues associated with longtime drug addition.
I am also concerned to learn that a key prosecution witness at the 1985 trial has recanted his testimony, which had been a key part of the evidence that convicted Mr. Diaz of murder.
It is deeply unsettling that this execution would proceed while Florida’s capital justice system remains mired in geographic and racial disparities. Florida is also the only state in the country that does not require a jury to be unanimous in recommending the death penalty. In this case, it should be noted that four of the jurors did not vote for the death penalty.
I have tremendous sympathy for the family and friends of Joseph Nagy, but I believe capital punishment only perpetuates the cycle of violence.
Governor Bush, I strongly urge you to demonstrate your respect for justice and human life by doing everything in your power to stop the execution of Angel Nieves Diaz.
Thank you for your time and attention to this serious matter.