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Why Texas’ ‘death penalty capital of the world’ stopped executing people

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Since the Supreme Court legalized capital punishment in 1976, Harris County, Texas, has executed 126 people. That's more executions than every individual state in the union, barring Texas itself.
Harris County's executions account for 23 percent of the 545 people Texas has executed. On the national level, the state alone is responsible for more than a third of the 1,465 people put to death in the United States since 1976.
In 2017, however, the county known as the "death penalty capital of the world" and the "buckle of the American death belt" executed and sentenced to death a remarkable number of people: zero.
This is the first time since 1985 that Harris County did not execute any of its death row inmates, and the third year in a row it did not sentence anyone to capital punishment either.
The remarkable statistic reflects a shift the nation is seeing as a whole.
“The practices that the Harris County District Attorney’s Office is following are also signifi…

Spaniard Pablo Ibar on death row in Florida for 15 years granted new trial

Pablo Ibar in 2009
Pablo Ibar in 2009
Pablo Ibar has always maintained his innocence over 1994 triple murder

The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday ordered a new trial for a Spaniard who had been on death row for over 15 years after being convicted of the 1994 murders of three people.

Lawyers for Pablo Ibar, 44, the son of Basque immigrants who holds dual Spanish-US citizenship, had fought for a new trial during a hearing before the state Supreme Court on April 8, 2014, arguing that mistakes were made by his defense attorney during his first trial in 2000.

The key piece of evidence in the prosecution’s case was a grainy, soundless home security video that showed a group of men attacking nightclub owner Casimir “Butch Casey” Sucharski, and two models, Sharon Anderson and Marie Rogers, whom he had brought to his home in Miramar, Florida.

The three were shot and killed during the botched robbery attempt.

One of the suspects in the video appears to be Ibar but, according to his lawyers, no DNA evidence was found at the scene to connect their client with the crime.

Ibar, the only Spaniard facing the death penalty in the United States, has never confessed to the crime in the almost 22 years he has spent incarcerated in Florida’s state penitentiary system.

“Ibar has established prejudice, given the relatively weak case against him with no physical evidence linking him to the crime, the critical role of his identification derived from the video, and the errors we previously identified in Ibar’s direct appeal,” the justices wrote in the opinion.

“Simply put, we cannot and do not have confidence in the outcome of this trial. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court’s denial of postconviction relief and remand for a new trial.”

The Ibar family had been waging public campaigns against his death sentence both in Spain and in the United States.

It is not clear when Ibar’s new trial date will be set. State prosecutors have a month to ask the Supreme Court for a review of the sentence, according to news reports.

Cándido Ibar, his father, told Spanish state broadcaster RNE on Friday that he was convinced that prosecutors would appeal the decision but insisted that his son’s defense team would present new evidence in his upcoming trial.

“The past is the past, and we have to look toward the future,” he said.

The Supreme Court has overturned the conviction of another man, Seth Penalver, who was sentenced with Ibar and testified that he was not sure that the Spaniard was at the crime scene. Penalver, who was also sentenced to death, was acquitted during his retrial in 2012.

As of October 2015, there were 2,959 inmates on death row in the United States.

Source: EL PAÍS, Luis Barbero, February 5, 2016. English version by Martín Delfín.


Florida revoca la sentencia de muerte contra el español Pablo Ibar

El Supremo ordena que se repita el juicio oral de Pablo Ibar, que lleva más de 20 años encarcelado

Pablo Ibar, el español que lleva más de 20 años encarcelado en Florida acusado del asesinato de tres personas en 1994 y que fue condenado a pena de muerte, ha conseguido al fin una victoria legal. El Tribunal Supremo de Florida ha ordenado que se celebre un nuevo juicio sobre el caso después de los recursos presentados por la defensa de Ibar que siempre ha negado su participación en el triple crimen.

Los hechos se remontan a enero de 1994, cuando Casimir Sucharski, propietario de un club de alterne, y Sharon Anderson y Marie Rogers, dos jóvenes modelos de 25 años, fueron acribillados a tiros en casa del primero en la localidad de Mirarmar, una localidad al norte de Miami. Una cámara que Sucharski tenía en su vivienda grabó todo lo ocurrido. Dos personas entraron a su vivienda con la cara cubierta, robaron al dueño del local nocturno el dinero que tenía y mataron a las tres personas. Hubo un momento, en el que uno de los criminales se quitó una camiseta y fue grabado por la cámara, de baja resolución.

En la casa, la policía halló casquillos, pisadas, huellas y pelos de los que extrajo ADN que no pertenecían a Ibar. En cualquier caso, el vídeo era la principal prueba de la investigación. Semanas después del crimen, un agente creyó reconocer a Ibar, que había sido detenido como sospechoso de un robo, en el vídeo. Ibar lo negó y aseguró que el día de los asesinatos estaba en casa con su esposa. La policía asegura que algunos testigos identificaron a Ibar en el vídeo, aunque luego dijeron que simplemente dijeron que se parecía.

Pablo Ibar y otro hombre, Seth Peñalver, fueron condenados a muerte por el triple crimen. Posteriormente, el juicio de Peñalver fue anulado al considerar la justicia que había habido irregularidades, pero el caso de Ibar siguió adelante.

El primer juicio contra Ibar, en 1997, fue declarado nulo al no ponerse de acuerdo el jurado. En 2000, fue declarado culpable y condenado a pena de muerte. Ibar recurrió al Supremo de Florida, argumentando que el jurado había tomado decisiones erróneas basadas en pruebas circunstanciales y pidió celebrar un nuevo juicio, petición que fue desestimada en 2006.

Ibar ha seguido litigando y en abril de 2014 se celebró una apelación contra esta decisión. El abogado defensor alegó que, durante el proceso, se habían vulnerado los derechos constitucionales de Ibar. Presentó testimonios de expertos que aseguraban que el vídeo grabado no es una prueba sólida para identificar a las personas que perpetraron el triple crimen y que la complexión de la persona que se quitó la camiseta no corresponde con la de Ibar.

En esta ocasión, los jueces sí han valorado las alegaciones de Ibar, que lleva 15 años en el corredor de la muerte, y a las que se opuso la Fiscalía. Tras meses de deliberación, el Supremo de Florida ha tomado la decisión de repetir el juicio por cuatro votos a favor y tres en contra.

La Asociación contra la Pena de Muerte de Pablo Ibar ha celebrado la decisión de los jueces, aunque sabe que aún queda un largo camino por delante y es consciente de que habrá más y más recursos. Para Pablo Ibar, pese a sus 22 años en prisión, es una nueva oportunidad, quizá la última de demostrar su inocencia.

Fuente: EL PAÍS, Luis Barbero, 4 Feb 2016

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