Crime

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

Pablo Ibar has always maintained his innocence over 1994 triple murder

Pablo Ibar in 2009.
Pablo Ibar in 2009.John Watson Riley / EFE

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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.

“Simply put, we cannot and do not have confidence in the outcome of this trial”

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”

“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.

English version by Martín Delfín.

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