Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Convicted killer of 4 should be spared death penalty, defense says

The Associated Press

April 9, 2007, 4:39 PM EDT

BARTOW -- An Ecuadorean businessman convicted of killing four people should be spared the death penalty because of a lack of prior criminal history, his age and a lifetime of positive characteristics, his attorney argued Monday.

Circuit Court Judge Susan Roberts will rule on the sentencing of Nelson Ivan Serrano, 68. By law, Roberts is required to give the jury's recommendation of a death sentence great weight when she rules.

"Given his age right now, incarcerating him on death row would not best serve society,'' said Serrano's defense attorney Bob Norgard.

Serrano also was a successful immigrant who excelled as an engineer and salesman, Norgard said.

"He is someone who achieved a lot for himself and his family in the United States,'' Norgard said.

During the hearing, State Attorney John Aguero asked for restitution of more than $22,000 for the victim's family funeral expenses and intermittent expenses.

"When the court has a mass-murderer sitting in the courtroom, four dead people, that just has tremendous weight,'' Aguero said.

The same jury that convicted Serrano on four counts of first-degree murder in October recommended on a 9-3 vote that he be sentenced to death for the fatal shootings of a former business partner and three bystanders at a Bartow garment conveyor factory.

A jury found Serrano guilty of four counts of first-degree murder for the Dec. 3, 1997 slayings of George Gonsalves, 69; Frank Dosso, 35; Diane Patisso, 28; and George Patisso, Jr., 26. Gonsalves, Dosso's father, Felice Dosso, and Serrano were business partners until a dispute over finances led to Serrano's firing as company president in the summer of 1997.

Serrano has denied involvement in the killings, telling investigators he was in Atlanta on business at the time. Defense attorneys said there was no physical evidence connecting Serrano to the slayings and no proof he was even in Polk County on the night of the slayings.

Prosecutors told jurors rage over being ousted from the business drove Serrano to mastermind an elaborate plot to kill Gonsalves and leave himself with an alibi almost 500 miles away. Dosso and the Patissos were killed because they got in the way, prosecutors said.

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