Spanish lawmakers travel to Florida for compatriot's trial in murder case

EFE

"We finally want to have a fair trial," a member of the Spanish parliamentary delegation who traveled to Florida to support countryman Pablo Ibar at his re-trial for a 1994 triple-murder told EFE here Monday.

The comment by Sen. Jose Maria Cazalis Eiguren during a recess in the first oral arguments in Ibar's fourth trial, was seconded by the other members of the delegation.

Ibar, 46, has been in custody for the past 24 years for the murders of Casimir Sucharski, Sharon Anderson and Marie Rogers, and he has been put on trial three times in the case, most recently in 2000 when he was sentenced to death.

In 2016, however, the Florida Supreme Court overturned his conviction, ruling that the evidence presented against him at the 2000 trial was scanty and weak and ordering a new trial, the oral phase of which began on Monday.

About 10 members of Spain's Parliament attended the hearing presided over by Judge Dennis Bailey at which the prosecution and Ibar's defense team presented their initial arguments.

According to what the delegation told EFE, they traveled to Fort Lauderdale to ensure both that Ibar gets a fair trial and to show their opposition to the death penalty.

Sen. Rosa Vindel said that the defense argument made by attorney Kevin Kulik was "stunning" and that presented by prosecutor William Sinclair was "incomprehensible," because he relied on the same evidence that the Florida high court previously found to be insufficient.

Sen. Maria Jose Fernandez noted that the prosecution needs to present "overwhelming proof" and not just "circumstantial evidence," and that is even more important after the 2000 court ruling.

Ibar, who was born in the US to a Spanish father and Cuban mother, the latter of whom is deceased, is the nephew of Spanish boxing great Jose Manuel Ibar, better known as Urtain, who took his own life in 1992 at the age of 49.

Candido Ibar, the defendant's father, told EFE that it is "incredible" that the parliamentary delegation had come to see the start of the trial. "We feel greatly supported," he said.

The lawmakers are scheduled to visit Ibar in prison on Monday afternoon.

This fourth trial actually began on Oct. 1 and to date the activities have included selecting the jury that will decide his fate.

The three victims were shot to death by thieves who broke into Sucharski's home to rob the owner of a nightclub in Miramar, Florida.

Ibar was initially tried for the triple homicide along with co-defendant Seth Penalver in 1997, but a mistrial was declared.

Penalver was convicted two years later and sentenced to death, but that conviction was subsequently annulled and he was acquitted in a new trial in 2012.

Ibar was convicted in 2000, but the Florida Supreme Court overturned that verdict by a 4-3 vote in February 2016 based on, among other things, the fact that his DNA was not found on a T-shirt that was recovered from the murder scene and which one of the perpetrators had used to partially cover his face.

Fingerprints and hair samples recovered from the murder scene also do not match the DNA of the defendant, who has steadfastly maintained his innocence.

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