Saturday, June 9, 2007

Family: No mercy for Broward deputy's killer


Broward Sheriff's Deputy Todd Fatta, slain in the line of duty three years ago, was a loving son, uncle and brother, his sister, Linda Kirtley told federal jurors Thursday.

''I miss him every day, every day,'' Kirtley said on the first day of testimony in the death-penalty phase of the trial.

Kenneth Wilk, 45, convicted Tuesday of Fatta's murder, faces a possible sentence of death by lethal injection for the Aug. 19, 2004 ambush-slaying of Fatta. Because it is a federal case, the 12 jurors must reach a unanimous decision.

While there have been hundreds of capital cases successfully prosecuted by the state, there never has been a successful federal capital murder case in South Florida.

Fatta's father, however, said he would like his son's killer to be the first so that his son will never be forgotten.

''My son will always be remembered,'' Joe Fatta Sr. explained outside the courtroom Thursday. ``He'll be a part of history.''

It's not clear how long the penalty phase will last. At one point during trial deliberations, the jury indicated to the judge that it was deadlocked -- a sign that not all of them were able to reach a consensus on all counts.

They continued to deliberate, however, and finally reached a decision late Tuesday afternoon. But legal experts say the jury's earlier indecision could be a sign that one or more of them have doubts.

Death-penalty opponents say that, while they sympathize with Fatta's family, executing Wilk will not undo what he did.

''Some crimes are so horrible that there is no earthly punishment that fits the crime. A decision to kill caused this terrible tragedy. Another decision to kill cannot repair the damage done,'' said Mark Elliott, director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Fatta, 33, was part of a multiagency federal task force that raided Wilk's upscale Fort Lauderdale home to serve a search warrant for child pornography.

Wilk, who suffers from AIDS, changed after 2001, testified James Sipowicz, of Austin, Texas, a friend of Wilk's for 27 years.

''He wasn't the same person I had known,'' Sipowicz said. ``He was quite different, the carefree attitude he had, the good nature, the joviality he had, it was all gone.''

Another friend, Richard Murphy, however, testified that Wilk was a giving person who gave a grocery gift certificate to a needy friend and, when the man had nowhere to live, offered him a place to stay in his Fort Lauderdale home.

Murphy also testified how Wilk saved the life of a woman in a Miami Subs in Hollywood in late 2003.

''She was choking, drooling, and he was the person that immediately went to her and he did the Heimlich maneuver,'' Murphy said.

Also on Thursday, the jury heard testimony from Fatta's sister and brother, Joe Fatta Jr., who described their brother's childhood as a computer screen flashed photographs for the jury: a smiling Fatta swimming with dolphins, a proud Fatta standing next to his BSO patrol unit with his parents outside his Pompano Beach home.

''I can talk forever about the positive choices my brother made all his life and how he never chose to work the dark side of life,'' said Fatta Jr.

``His loss was a tragic loss for me and for my family and the community. He dedicated his life to the community.''

The burly firefighter broke down on the stand and was unable to continue speaking.
After hearing more testimony Thursday afternoon, the jury was excused until Tuesday, but not before being cautioned by U.S. District Judge James Cohn, who on Wednesday dismissed an alternate juror for posting comments about the case on a newspaper Internet site.

''Do not discuss this case on the Internet,'' Cohn told the jury. ``Don't blog on any Internet sites. Don't even go on the Internet.''

The juror, who sat in on all of the testimony and deemed herself an expert, didn't like what readers were saying about the case. So she chimed in, admonishing others that only the police and Wilk know what actually happened in Wilk's home the day of the murder.

The juror was an alternate, meaning she wasn't one of the 12 who convicted Wilk on all counts Tuesday. But she was to come back Thursday for the penalty phase.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sorry for your loss Joe.

Anthony Fuda