Seth Penalver to Be Released From Florida’s Death Row

Seth Penalver kneels and weeps into his chair after a Broward jury finds him not guilty of the 1994 Casey's Nickelodeon murders. Penalver had once been convicted and sentenced to death for the crime, but the Florida Supreme Court reversed his conviction in 2006 and ordered a new trial. (Rafael Olmeda, for the Sun Sentinel/ December 21, 2012)

Seth Penalver kneels and weeps into his chair after a Broward jury finds him not guilty of the 1994 Casey’s Nickelodeon murders. Penalver had once been convicted and sentenced to death for the crime, but the Florida Supreme Court reversed his conviction in 2006 and ordered a new trial. (Rafael Olmeda, for the Sun Sentinel/ December 21, 2012)

Death row inmate Seth Penalver has been acquitted of three first-degree murder charges and will soon be released from Florida’s death row.

Penalver, 39, was charged in the killing of Casimir “Butch Casey” Sucharski, Sharon Anderson, and Marie Rogers in 1994. The case has become well-known around Broward County, due to a series of twists and turns, and the fact that the two previous trials in the case were two of the longest in the county’s history. Those familiar with it often call it the “Nickelodeon case.”

Sucharski, who was the owner of a bar called Casey’s Nickelodeon, Anderson and Rogers were killed during a home invasion at Sucharski’s home in July 1994. The killings were caught on tape by a surveillance camera mounted near the ceiling. According to the Sun Sentinel, the footage “showed two armed men forcing their way into the house through a back sliding door shortly after 7:15 a.m. Over the next 22 minutes, the victims were terrorized and Sucharski was pistol-whipped. Then, the video shows all three being shot execution style in the back of the head. Unaware a video camera was running, one killer removed the blue T-shirt he’d used to cover his face. Police say that killer was [Pablo] Ibar.”

Ibar and Penalver were arrested two months later and indicted for murder, armed robbery and burglary. At the first trial, during which they were tried together as co-defendants, the trial ended with a hung jury. The trial stretched over nine months and was reportedly the most expensive trial held in the county.

The two were tried again, but separately, in 2000. At his second trial, which lasted six months, Penalver was convicted on all charges and sentenced to death. Ibar was also found guilty and sent to the state’s death row.

However, the Supreme Court overturned Penalver’s conviction on appeal in 2006 and granted him a new trial. According to the Sun Sentinelthe main reason was that “the video was so poor the justices couldn’t tell if Penalver was the killer who wore a hat and sunglasses.”

Penalver’s third trial began in July. The prosecutor relied on testimony from Penalver’s ex-girlfriend, who originally identified Penalver from a still pulled from the surveillance tape. But she later recanted, saying she only identified him because detectives told her he was one of the two men.

According to the Sentinel, “defense lawyer Hilliard Moldof tore into the prosecution’s case, saying it relied on unreliable identifications made by unreliable witnesses. He said the other man on the videotape was likely another criminal associate of Ibar who has since been deported.”

After a five-month trial and ten days of deliberating, the jury delivered their verdict of not guilty on all charges. They decided there was not enough evidence to be sure without a doubt that it was Penalver in the video. According to Sentinel reporter Rafael Olmeda‘s report, “Penalver wept, got off his chair, kneeled in apparent prayer, stood up, took deep breaths and repeatedly embraced defense attorney Hilliard Moldof, who also wept.”

Penalver meets the Death Penalty Information Center’s criteria for inclusion on the list of death row exonerees, and will become the 142 exoneree since 1976 and the 24th from Florida.

“That’s one exoneration for every three executions,” Mark Elliott, director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, wrote in a press release distributed Friday. “How many more innocent people will be sentenced to die in Florida before our state leaders realize that this is a fatal problem that cannot be fixed ?”

“It is both tragic and ironic that the state that has sent the highest number of wrongfully convicted people to Death Row is now condemning the most people to death,” said Elliott. “It is time for Governor Scott to act and call a halt to executions to prevent the possible execution of other wrongfully convicted people. Florida’s death penalty system is a hugely expensive, mistake-ridden government program with no accountability or oversight. It is time to admit it cannot be fixed and end it.”

Related Reading: 

Jury Finds Penalver Not Guilty in Casey’s Nickelodeon Triple Murder Case

Deliberations in Penalver Murder Trial to Begin Wednesday

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14 thoughts on “Seth Penalver to Be Released From Florida’s Death Row

  1. Reblogged this on Wobbly Warrior's Blog and commented:
    There are other Florida death row innocents waiting to be freed; I’m most familiar with William “Tommy” Zeigler’s 36-year persecution. There are executed innocents to mourn properly by clearing, Gerald Stano, Linroy Bottoson and perhaps others.

  2. Olmeda says:

    Thank you for linking the source article through the picture. Much appreciated.

  3. Talisman says:

    Disgusting – This guy is guilty all 3 counts – (Karma is a bitch)

    • jojo zaffuto says:

      only god can judge…. and he did!!!!

      • Talisman says:

        Apparently you have not suffered the lose of a family member that was murdered in such a horrible way, and for no reason. I sincerely hope you never experience the pain.

    • Windy says:

      He did his time and for nothing. He was found innocent on all charges. I’m guessing you know better then the experts and the man himself that was falsely accused?

      • Talisman says:

        I have a “personal interest” in this case. There’s a lot more to this then was presented. I will not explain how I know publicly because it’s nobodys’ business. This guy is guilty and that’s a fact!!!

      • windy says:

        You are publically trying to accuse & humiliate him. I’ll pray you find whatever peace it is you’re searching for. If it’s nobody’s business, then keep it to yourself.

      • Miramar says:

        Can somebody please tell me how to delete comments off here?

  4. wayne says:

    Does anyone know if Ibar testified to who was with him or what other evidence there was connecting him to the murders.

    • Yes, Ibar originally gave up Penalver and that’s why they were tried separately. What has not been re-printed here is that Panalver went through 3 lawyers until he found one who would take his case – that’s how strong the evidence was against him – I have seen the video – it was on the Maury Povich show when the sister of one of the victims, Sharon Anderson, appeared on a show about home invasions in 1995. I’m Sharon’s Aunt and I am too weary for emotion at this point.

  5. Windy says:

    I have suffered the lose of a family member in such a horrible way and I was the witness. 14 yrs old i witnessed my mom murdered and we never found out who was responsible. In my case the murder was an accident. I don’t dwell upon it. I found peace in knowing that the person who did the crime has to live with what they did and knowing they never came forward even though it was an accident. Maybe you should do some soul searching and find peace in knowing no matter what the situation or how these people are punished it will never bring any of these people back. Thou shall not commit murder goes for all of us! We can’t pick or choose who it is ok to murder

  6. Jean says:

    It is sad that a person that is guilty of such a violent crime went free. He should pay for what he did. I watched the video over and over and he is a monster. The way he murdered those people without thinking twice tells me he probably has killed many before. Hopefully the next time he kills someone, he is properly dealt with. He is heartless and if anybody deserved the death penalty, it was him. I think it is terrible to sit on death row for a crime you did not commit, but this wasn’t what happened in this case. This is such a terrible injustice.

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