When the Florida Superior Court annulled his death sentence two years ago, considering that the evidence that condemned Pablo was “scanty and weak”, the prosecution again requested the lethal injection. The defense began its fight to make Ibar the 29th prisoner who would go free after passing through the death row in Florida. A victory would have dealt a blow to a controversial punishment, in force in 30 States of the country, which in Florida is imposed with a particular frequency. It has not been.
The defendant has listened to the verdict with his usual mettle. Just a movement of denial with his head, before he was handcuffed again, covered by the jacket of his blue suit, to return him to his misery.
Today’s decision is not firm. This may be just a new point and followed in an endless judicial battle. But the forces are scarce. “I’m not here at all,” said Cándido Ibar, Pablo’s father and brother of ill-fated boxing champion José Manuel Urtain, a Gipuzkoa ballplayer who came to make the Americas in the pediments and ended up giving 24 years of his life to demonstrate the innocence of your child.
Candid, 74 years old, noble Basque and not given to show his feelings, was dejected. Knowing that today there could be a verdict, he had woken up shortly before four in the morning and could not get back to sleep. When he has heard the first “guilty”, he has grabbed his forehead with his hand. With his eyes closed, he has continued to listen to Judge Bailey read the verdict of the jury, which found his son guilty of each of the six counts, including three first-degree murders. “You can not understand, this I did not expect,” said Cándido on the way out. “That they did not reach a unanimous verdict and the trial declared null, yes. But this…”.
Although the jury does not argue its verdict, everything indicates that the DNA has been key in its decision. The first genetic analysis of the shirt with which one of the murderers covered his face in the surveillance video that recorded the crime, and then removed to dry the sweat, did not throw matches with Ibar’s DNA. Yes there were abundant traces of an unknown subject.
In the 1997 joint trial of Ibar with the other defendant, Seth Peñalver (he himself, acquitted to the third in 2012), the State presented DNA evidence from the same shirt, which excluded Ibar. In the trial against Ibar in 2000, in which he was sentenced to death, the most advanced analysis of additional samples taken from the same shirt, the State’s own experts testified, again excluding Ibar.
On that occasion, the DNA was discarded, Ibar was basically condemned by the video, in which the jury considered that the one who appeared was the accused, and by testimonies of witnesses who, since then, have been largely discredited. Those are the tests that the Supreme Court of Florida considered “scanty and feeble,” when he ordered the trial repeated.
But in a new genetic analysis brought by surprise in 2016 by the prosecution, made with a new technology that the defense has tried in vain to discredit, although the genetic fingerprint of the unknown continues to prevail, a minimal trace of Ibar’s DNA was found, only in one of the five points of the garment analyzed. The defense has tried to dismantle the controversial new analysis and to prove, in addition, that the deficient custody of the test could have allowed a posteriori contamination.
It has been demonstrated that the test arrived in an envelope open to experts, in contact with other objects. And that the general custody of the evidence, during all these years, was deficient (the defense provided a video in which it is seen how the prosecutor himself manipulates a test). The expert of the prosecution, to questions of the defense, admitted that contamination with DNA is much easier today than in 1994. Even so the truth is that a genetic test of the shirt provides a coincidence, although small and of origin and reliability debatable, with Ibar’s DNA
Neither the experts in facial recognition of the defense have managed to convince the jury that the face that is seen briefly in the video is not that of Pablo. They are a few moments and the image is ill-defined, typical of a camcorder of the time. The defense brought an eminence in the matter, from the United Kingdom, which underlined the supposed differences with Ibar. But he has not convinced the jury.
This Saturday, the excitement overflowed the 6,900 courtrooms of Broward County, north of Miami, stripped of the frenetic activity of the weekdays. At 10.30 am the usual knocking on the wooden door, which separates the court from the room where the jury deliberated, with which the sheriff announced that they were going to enter. There was a verdict.
The silence, among the thirty people present in the room, the vast majority of them from Ibar’s side, was sepulchral. It was barely broken by the sobs of a broken family. Tanya Quiñones, Pablo’s wife, could not even speak with the media that were waiting for her on the way out and towards those who have shown great affection throughout the process.
The way of the appeal, cumbersome and expensive, will depend on the sentence that is decided, explains Benjamin Waxman, the experienced lawyer who has defended Pablo in this trial. If there is a death sentence, the appeal is direct to the Superior Court of Florida. If it is life imprisonment, to the federal court of appeals. In any case, warns Waxman, we are facing a process that, again, can last for years. Six were between the first conviction and the appeal.
“There have been mistakes, it’s clear. I know, and I have experience in this, “Waxman argued. “This jury has had a very difficult job. I believe in the jury system, but I think they were wrong. The case was very complicated. DNA [key in the trial] is something extremely complex. ”
Waxman trusts the strength of the Ibar and the Quinones. “Pablo is very strong, we are many who believe in his innocence and we are not going to loosen up,” he said. “The strength of this family, you have seen it, it is incredible, Tanya, Michael will be able to resume their lives and continue supporting Pablo, they are very strong individuals, and as a family, they are even more “