[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----CONN./ITALY
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Dec 10 16:40:44 CST 2004
Italian Court Delays Extradition Ruling----Cipriani Fears Death Penalty If
Tried In Connecticut
Despite his attorney's impassioned plea that he be tried in Italy, an
Italian court on Thursday postponed its decision on whether Benedetto
Cipriani should be returned to the United States to face charges in the
deaths of 3 men at a Windsor Locks auto body shop last year.
In a closed hearing, Cipriani's attorney in Italy, Romano Misserville,
argued before 3 Italian magistrates in Rome that Connecticut authorities
have not offered his client enough protection from the death penalty, even
though prosecutors have agreed not to seek execution if Cipriani is
convicted of murder and conspiracy charges.
"If Cipriani is extradited, tried and found guilty in the United States,
there is still the chance that he will be condemned to death," Misserville
said after the hearing.
Italy's constitution guarantees that its citizens cannot be extradited to
a country in which a suspect faces the death penalty. Cipriani has Italian
The court is expected to issue a ruling in a few days.
Connecticut police say that Cipriani, 49, paid three men from the Hartford
area to kill B&B Automotive owner Robert "Bobby" Stears, whose wife,
Shelley, was Cipriani's lover. Police found Stears fatally shot at the
shop, along with his partner, Barry Rossi, 35, and mechanic Lorne Stevens,
Jose Guzman, 23, a former state resident who had moved to Florida; Erik
Martinez, 21, of Hartford; and Michael Castillo, 20, of East Hartford,
were arrested last December and charged with carrying out the shooting for
a $5,000 payment. They are each charged with capital felony, which can
bring the death penalty.
Cipriani, who had moved to Meriden in mid-2002, flew to Rome within days
of the July 30, 2003, shootings. Italian police captured Cipriani in a
small town outside of Rome in April.
During Thursday's hearing, a thin and gaunt Cipriani, dressed in a blue
vest and dark pants, kept his eyes lowered while he listened to the
magistrates discuss Connecticut's extradition request. His sister,
Vittoria, and several relatives waited outside the closed courtroom.
If the Italian court decides to try Cipriani in Italy, he can be released
from custody while he awaits a trial date, his attorney said.
Debbie Ahrens, Robert Stears' sister, said she hopes that the court will
rule to extradite Cipriani.
"He should come back. He shouldn't be tried in Italy. It's not fair. What
he did was here. It's about us, not the Italian people," she said.
Misserville told the magistrates that Italy's Constitutional Court refused
in the late 1990s to extradite an Italian citizen accused of murdering a
Florida tax collector.
The Italian court put Pietro Venezia on trial in his homeland, Misserville
said. But when a key witness in the case was too ill to travel, the
Italians took the trial temporarily to Miami. It later resumed in Italy.
"The Italian constitution values human life," Misserville said.
Misserville also argued that Connecticut's evidence against Cipriani was
weak. The state has affidavits from Guzman, Castillo, and Martinez,
accusing Cipriani of the killings, and they have pleaded not guilty.
In Italy, such affidavits are not regarded as sworn testimony.
Misserville told the magistrates that Jose Velazquez, the 45-year-old
uncle of suspect Erik Martinez, could have been under the influence of
drugs when he tipped police to his nephew's alleged involvement in the
Velazquez was arrested on drug charges when he told police that he had
accepted $100 to give the men a ride to Wallingford to collect their
Misserville told the magistrates that Velazquez could not identify Guzman
in a photograph when asked to do so by Connecticut police, even though
Guzman had stayed with Velazquez a few months earlier.
Misserville said that Cipriani would appeal the Italian court's decision
if it orders his extradition.
(source: Hartford Courant)
More information about the DeathPenalty