An Arlington Circuit Court jury last night recommended the death penalty for a 28-year-old cuban refugee who beat an elderly woman to death in her apartment March 19.
Judge Charles S. Russell delayed imposing the sentence on Manuel Quintana, who had been convicted by the same jury a day earlier of murdering 72-year-old Ophelia Quintero, another Cuban refugee. The judge said he will hear defense motions Aug. 3 before deciding whether to impose or set aside the recommended sentence.
The jury's recommendation came after the panel earlier had reported it was deadlocked 6 to 6 over the punishment.
In a statement that had defense lawyers demanding an immediate mistrial, the jurors told the judge they were "grasping for guidance" and didn't know whether they should consider Quintana guilty beyond a reasonable doubt or "with absolute certainty."
Russell rejected the mistrial request and directed the jury to resume its deliberations. An hour and forty minutes later, it reported it had reached the verdict.
Quintana sat motionless with his hands folded and his eyes downcast, as the verdict was read. Defense lawyer Benjamin Kendrick, face flushed, stared blankly at the jurors.
Proceedings of the eight-day trial were translated simultaneously into Spanish through an electronic set-up, which cost $1,200 a day and was devised to insure that Quintania, who cannot speak or understand English, was aware of the proceedings. It was believed to be the first such translation conducted in a state court in Virginia.
During yesterday's hearing, six witnesses who knew or had contacts with Quintana took the stand. One of them, Pedro Castro, told jurors that Quintana had told him of how he had murdered a man in Cuba and of how he wanted to "take away" a young girl from an Arlington junior high school.
Another witness, Cannibot Suares said he knew Quintana in Cuba, where the defendant had numerous problems with the police and murdered a man in a small town there.
Defense lawyer Kendrick had argued that Quintana did not kill Quintero, but was framed. Kendrick contended that articles which were taken from the woman's apartment and found in Quintana's car were placed there by someone else.
He also argued that there was no confirmation that Quintana had a criminal record in Cuba and that his client invented such stories while jailed awaiting trial here to project a "macho image."
Prosecutors, led by Assistant Commonwealth's attorney Kenneth Melson, argued that Quintana was an acquiantance of Quintero and entered her Arlington apartment and stole money and other property before bludgeoning her to death with a hammer. Melson called Quintero's death a "senseless killing" and said the defendent had shown "no evidence whatsoever of remorse or compassion."
Virginia has not executed a prisoner since 1962. Yesterday's death sentence verdict was the second in Northern Virginia in less than two months. sWilbert Lee Evans, 34, was convicted in April of murdering an Alexandria sheriff's deputy and is scheduled to die Sept. 1, although a postponement is expected because state law requires an appeal.