TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – A man on death row since 2000 for a Broward County triple murder will get a new trial after the Supreme Court ruled that his defense attorney made serious mistakes and there was a lack of evidence to convict in a case that drew protests from Spanish officials who oppose the death penalty.
The 4-3 ruling means Pablo Ibar, 43, will get a third trial for the 1994 murders of nightclub owner Casimir Sucharski, Sharon Anderson and Marie Rogers in Miramar. His case was built around a grainy security video that captured the murders and the Supreme Court faulted his attorney, Kayo Morgan, for not calling an expert facial recognition witness to challenge whether the assailant was actually Ibar.
“There was simply no excuse for the numerous deficiencies and failures of Ibar’s defense attorney. None of the failures can be attributed to strategic moves nor could remotely constitute acceptable conduct for an attorney defending a first-degree murder charge with the death penalty being sought,” the court wrote in the opinion.
It also cited personal issues Ibar’s attorney was dealing with during the trial, including impregnating a drug addict and charges that he battered her. The court said Morgan acknowledged he found it difficult to concentrate, conducted poor cross-examinations and took short cuts.
The court also noted that there was no physical evidence that linked Ibar to the crime.
Ibar was originally tried with co-defendant Seth Penalver in a trial that ended with a hung jury. The men were then tried separately and both convicted and sentenced to death. The Supreme Court granted Penalver a new trial in 2006 and he was acquitted.
Ibar was born in Florida to a Spanish national and only took Spanish citizenship after his conviction in 2000. As he appealed the case, several Spanish officials attended Supreme Court arguments in 2003 and Spanish citizens raised $150,000 to help with his defense. The Spanish officials said use of the death penalty was unjustifiable.