Saturday, February 21, 2009

Daniels gets life sentence in murder of confidential informant Constance Dupont

Judge Dekker follows jury recommendation

By Nic Corbett

Rosemary Butler has no hate in her heart for the man convicted in the death of her daughter, confidential informant Constance Dupont, she said Friday in Gadsden Circuit Court.

But she still wonders why law enforcement didn't do more to protect Dupont.

"My daughter was used to capture a drug dealer and left on her own," said Butler, who lives in Orlando. "Those who used her as an informant are just as guilty, being that they knew what she was facing."

Hernandez Daniels, 36, was sentenced to life in prison without parole Friday. He was found guilty of first-degree murder earlier in the week for ordering a hit on the 39-year-old Dupont, who was working for the Leon County Sheriff's Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to bust Daniels. The person described by prosecutors as the hit man, Fernando "Wolf" Taylor, is expected to be tried on the same charge later.

Prosecutors have called her death a tragedy. Law-enforcement officials have declined to talk about Dupont's death.

The state sought the death penalty for Daniels, but a 12-person jury recommended life after deliberating for more than an hour. Circuit Judge Kathleen Dekker said she couldn't think of any legal reason to overrule the recommendation.

Daniels is already serving a life sentence on federal drug charges, but that doesn't mean the trial was a waste of time or money, said prosecutor Richard Combs.

"We have a case in which an individual was killed, murdered, and it shouldn't be forgotten," he said after the trial. "Just because it says life without parole today doesn't mean it'll say life without parole next year. People get out of prison for all sorts of reasons. The laws can change."

The jurors were told to weigh the legal reasons why Daniels should live or die. The prosecutor argued that the murder was cold and calculating. He called Daniels a "ring leader" and "puppet master" who orchestrated the killing of Dupont, starting from the night before, when he confirmed the rumor she was a "snitch." Daniels called one of the cell-phones Dupont used to set up a drug buy, and a detective answered the phone.

But Daniels' lawyer told the jurors that Daniels was a good father to his stepdaughter, that he gave his family financial and moral support. He was the only one of five siblings to graduate from high school, and he kept a steady full-time job at a pharmaceutical company for six years before he was arrested. His discipline-free record in prison was also noted.

No comments: