INNOCENCE: Florida Death Row Inmate Acquitted at Re-trial

On December 21, Seth Penalver was acquitted of all charges and will be freed from Florida's death row, 13 years after being sentenced to death. He was originally charged with a triple murder and armed robbery that occurred in Broward County in 1994.  His first trial ended with a deadlocked jury.  At his second trial in 1999, he was convicted and sentenced to death. In 2006, the Florida Supreme Court (Penalver v. Florida, No. SC00-1602, Feb. 2, 2006) overturned his conviction because the prosecution had introduced improper evidence at his trial. A co-defendant, Pablo Ibar, was also sentenced to death and remains on death row. A video from the crime scene helped convict Ibar, but images showing another suspect were inconclusive. Penalver has always maintained his innocence. At Penalver's most recent trial, which began 5 months ago, the jury was deadlocked 10-2, and both the prosecution and defense agreed to replace two jurors with alternates who had attended the proceedings. The newly constituted jury began deliberations afresh and found Penalver not guilty of all charges. Penalver is the 142nd person to be exonerated and freed from death row since 1973, and the 24th such person in Florida, the most of any state.

(R. Olmeda, "Jury finds Penalver not guilty in Casey's Nickelodeon triple murder case," Sun Sentinel, Dec. 21, 2012). Florida led the country in death sentences in 2012 with 21. One other person, Damon Thibodeaux in Louisiana, was exonerated in 2012. See Innocence and DPIC's 2012 Year End Report. See also Press Release, Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, Dec. 21, 2012.