Defendants get life sentences in racial murder case

PHILADELPHIA -- Five young men were sentenced Saturday to life in prison for the death last summer of a 17-year-old boy in a racially motivated attack.

The Common Pleas Court jury deliberated less than two hours before sentencing Juan Gonzales, 18, James Sanders, 21, James Martinez, 18, Rafael Droz, 20, and Alexis Rodriguez, 20. All are residents of Philadelphia.


The panel began its deliberations about 11:30 a.m. Saturday. The jury Wednesday convicted the five of first-degree murder in the May 1989 killing of Sean Daily, the white son of a Philadelphia police officer.

Family members of the defendants, all of whom are Hispanic, reacted emotionally as the life sentences were read by the jury foreman in the packed sixth-floor courtroom.

One woman screamed and ran down the hallway, and another woman fainted. The mothers of all defendants had made passionate appeals for mercy earlier in the proceedings.

After the sentences were announced, members of the Puerto Rican Justice Defense Coalition blocked the hallway so reporters and photographers could not talk to or take pictures of family members or others involved in the case.

Outside City Hall, protestors chanted 'No justice, no peace' and 'Defendants don't worry. The community is with you.' as the defendants were led into a van for the trip to Holmesburg Prison.


Protestors, who have been outside City Hall almost every day of the eight-week trial, also called the news media and Judge Lynne Abraham 'racists.'

The judge had placed a gag order on everyone involved in the case. The order expired when the verdicts were announced.

Defense attorneys vowed to appeal the verdicts.

'There are many issues including the judge's decision not to sever the case that could be grounds for appeal,' said attorney Joseph Armenti.

Prosecutors had asked for the death penalty because of the savagery of the attack on Daily, who was beaten with baseball bats and then shot to death.

The attack was in response to an attack one week earlier by a group of whites against Droz, the leader of the attack on Daily.

Testimony in the case indicated that the five went to the city's Port Richmond section from their neighborhood to exact revenge. Daily, who was not involved in the earlier fight, was attacked as he and friends sat outside drinking beer.

The trial has sparked protests throughout the city's Hispanic community, and concerns over tensions generated by the trial have led to unprecedented courthouse security.

Nearly 40 deputy sheriffs and a large contingent of city police officers were on hand when the verdict was read.


Two other men -- Bezaliel Hernandez and Edwin Desamour, both 18 -- were convicted of third-degree murder and will be sentenced at a later date.

Three other youths involved in the attack -- Mark Rivera, Daniel Sanchez and Aidan Soto -- pleaded guilty to third-degree murder before the trial began and testified for the prosecution.

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