They wanted to get to the heart of at least one member of the jury, and in the end they succeeded. Pablo Ibar, found guilty of a triple murder committed in Florida in 1994, has saved his life. The case does not end here. The sentence will be appealed again in the hope that a new trial will be held which, this time, will exempt him. It will be more years to add to this very long process. But from today, whatever happens from now on, Ibar will not return to the death row where he spent 16 of the 25 years he has been imprisoned. Family members cried and hugged on their bench in Room 6900 of the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. After the blow that supposed that, the past 19 of January, Ibar returned to be declared guilty after the repetition of the judgment ordered by the Superior Court of Justice of Florida, the family has saved Pablo Ibar. They can not celebrate freedom, but they celebrate life.
It is hard to talk about the joy of a family when a jury decides that their loved one spends the rest of their life in jail. But it costs less after listening to the ten or so members of Ibar's family, biological and political, who have marched these days on the platform to testify why it is important for each of them that Pablo is still alive. His wife, his children, his father, his brothers, his sisters-in-law, his nephews, his in-laws, that pineapple that has enveloped Pablo Ibar and each other for so long, have received on Wednesday a guarantee that, despite the fact that the fight is not over, Pablo will still be there. Without freedom, but alive.
"It's a triumph," said Cándido Ibar, Basque expelotari, brother of boxing champion José Manuel Urtain. "While there is life there is hope".
"Paul has been saved by all those for whom he has made a difference, and all the people who have supported him have ended up giving him life," said Tanya, his wife, who was a 15-year-old girl when Pablo was arrested in 1994 "The fight is not going to stop, but this is a small victory in the right direction."
Those who have talked with Pablo Ibar agree that, if he has been able to maintain his sanity and integrity during this bizarre process, it is thanks to his family. But also, as they have explained all these days before the jury, Pablo himself has been the emotional glue that has kept that family together, the fuel that has fueled his desire to fight.
The day has begun with the reading by the judge of the instructions to the members of the jury. They had to choose between the two penalties that the law of Florida contemplates for the crimes of which Ibar was already found guilty, attending to the aggravating and mitigating factors presented by the parties in this second phase of the trial. Once the decision was made, they had to transfer it to the judge. This could not have converted a life sentence into the death penalty, but if the jury had recommended the maximum penalty, it could have reduced it to prison, something rare and with which the family did not count in any case.
"In this case, you are all eyewitnesses to a 22-minute nightmare that ended the lives of Casey (Sucharski), Marie (Rogers) and Sharon (Anderson)," said Katya Palmiotto, of the Prosecutor's team, at eight women and four men from the jury. Next, he has reproduced, once again, commenting on each movement, the video of poor quality recorded on June 27, 1994 by a security camera at the home of Sucharski, where he sees how two individuals kill in cold blood at three victims and one of them, in the end, takes off the shirt that covers his face, revealing a face that looks like Ibar's. The video and the shirt are the two main tests that led to Ibar's second guilty verdict in January.
"This is what the real Mr. Ibar does when nobody sees him," insisted the prosecutor, trying to dismantle the positive portrait drawn by the relatives of the accused for two days.
The defense representative, Kevin Kulik, meanwhile, has tried to present the trial as "a decision between life and death." He has remembered why it is so important for so many people that Paul lives. He has read the testimony of Alex Sucharski, daughter of one of the victims, who spoke of what he suffered when he lost his father. He reminded the members of the jury that, unlike the first phase, where the lack of unanimity would have caused the nullity of the trial, in this case his decision was individual: with which one would oppose, there would be no death penalty. "The non-revisable life sentence is not the most pious sentence that exists," he recalled, "but it is a very small step in the right direction."
At 4:00 pm the jury has withdrawn to deliberate. An hour later they had the decision. They consider that there are aggravating circumstances, but recommend the judge to life imprisonment. After reading the minutes, reviewed some technical issues, Pablo Ibar has been led back, chained, out of the room. But before, standing, he has looked at his lawyers, his family, attendees: he has put his hand to his heart and said thanks.
The process that begins today, explains Andrés Krakemberger, president of the Association Against the Death Penalty Pablo Ibar, is that of an appeal before the Court of Appeals of the 4th district of Florida. If it does not prosper there, then the Superior Court of Florida is appealed again. If the sentence had been to death, the appeal would have been directly to this last state instance. The appeal will be based, according to Krakemberger, on "a series of decisions by Judge Dennis Bailey that undoubtedly had their weight in the result" and "the failure to observe a series of testimonies, expert opinions and evidence by the jury."
In 2016, the Superior Court of Florida declared null and ordered the repetition of the trial for which he had been sentenced to death in 2000, on the grounds that the evidence was "weak and insufficient" and that he did not have an acceptable defense. Today the composition of this court, with more conservative members, is less favorable to the interests of Ibar.
The precedents point to a long and expensive process. The Association Against the Death Penalty Pablo Ibar will continue with its crowdfunding campaign. The incognito is in the money of the institutions. With the disappearance of the death penalty, budgetary allocations of public funds remain in the air. "We will put the counter to zero and move forward, but there will be an appeal," insists Krakemberger.
Since 1973, 165 people have left the death row, 29 of them in Florida. There are currently 2,721 prisoners on the death row in the United States, 354 in Florida. So far this year, seven people have been executed in one of the 30 American States where there is a maximum penalty. This same Thursday, at six o'clock in the afternoon, the execution of prisoner Robert Long, 65 years old, in the state prison of Florida is scheduled.
Carrying out the death penalty costs the State of Florida 51 million dollars a year more than it would cost to punish all first-degree homicides with life imprisonment. 88% of the presidents, past and present, of academic societies of criminology consider that the death penalty does not act as a deterrent to murder. The southern region of the country, where 80% of the executions take place, has the highest homicide rate; the northeastern region, where less than 1% of executions are carried out in the country, is the one with the lowest murder rate, according to an FBI report.
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