Wednesday, December 6, 2006

State says justice lack jurisdiction for latest Diaz appeal

State says justice lack jurisdiction for latest Diaz appeal

Florida Supreme Court lacks jurisdiction to take the latest appeal from a death row inmate facing execution next week, the state says in papers filed with the justices Wednesday.

Angel Diaz, scheduled to die Dec. 13 for murdering a topless club manager in Miami, contends that a law limiting state lawyers who represent death row inmates from pursuing non-criminal cases is unconstitutional because it has prevented his attorney from challenging Florida's lethal injection method in federal court.

That's because the U.S. Supreme Court has permitted such challenges only through a civil rights law in another Florida case earlier this year.

"This court does not have jurisdiction to issue declaratory judgments," Assistant Attorney General Sandra Jaggard wrote.

She also argued Diaz already has challenged his conviction and sentence in other appeals so, therefore, he has not been deprived of access to the courts even though his lawyer cannot challenge the lethal injection method in federal court.

The Supreme Court had prohibited Diaz's lawyer, Suzanne Myers Keffer, who works for the state's Office of the Capital Collateral Regional Counsel-South, from filling a reply. She protested that decision in a motion for an opportunity to be heard.

Keffer wrote that the state's response "raises new matters and issues, and contains blatantly deceptive assertions and arguments." Denying Diaz an opportunity to be heard violates his due process rights, she contended.

Diaz, who has other appeals pending before the high court, was convicted of first-degree murder for the Dec. 22, 1979 shooting death of Joseph Nagy while he and two accomplices robbed the Velvet Swing.

His prior record includes a second-degree murder conviction in his native Puerto Rico and escapes there and in Connecticut.

Three other Florida inmates this year have challenged the lethal injection procedure but federal courts rejected their cases on procedural grounds and all were executed.

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