(FILE) Photograph from Friday, September 23, 2016 of the interior of the former Indian River County Correctional Facility (Florida). EFE/Antoni Belchi

84 year old Ecuadorian on US death row denounces threats in prison

Quito, Sept 28 (EFE). – The defense of Ecuadorian Nelson Serrano, the oldest prisoner on death row in the United States, reported Thursday that he has allegedly received death threats inside Florida’s Union Correctional Institution.

Attorney Óscar Vela said Serrano, 84, told his son that he was moved from a wheelchair-accessible cell to a general population cell for no reason, where his fellow inmates allegedly told him the change was because someone wanted to kill him.

(FILE) Courtesy photograph provided on June 27, 2007, by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office of Ecuadorian Nelson Iván Serrano, EFE/EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Serrano, who uses a wheelchair because of hip problems, losing his eyesight, which could in turn cause mental health issues, since reading has allowed him to endure more than two decades of imprisonment.

“We ask the Ecuadorian authorities to take urgent measures,” warned Vela, who recently announced that he would present 13 new pieces of evidence to the court in order to have his client declared innocent.

Controversial case

Serrano was convicted of the quadruple murder of George Gonsalves, Diane Russo Patisso, George Patisso and Frank Doso in Florida.

The so-called Bartow crimes occurred in 1997 at a firm where Serrano was a partner and for which he was sentenced to four death sentences in 2006.

However, according to Vela, it was proven during the trial that he was in Atlanta at the time of the murders.

Among the deceased were one of the partners and the two children of another partner.

Serrano, who was the third partner of the firm, was suspected from the beginning because the firm had problems due to the disappearance of money.

Óscar Vela, Nelson Serrano’s lawyer, speaks during an interview with EFE on July 31, 2023, in Quito (Ecuador). EFE/ Juan Francisco Chávez

New evidence

At the end of July, Serrano’s lawyer, Óscar Vela, told EFE about the existence of 13 new pieces of evidence that have to do with “concealments made by the Florida police and prosecutors in the case.”

Among them are testimonies that prove the presence of other people at the crime scene, the existence of a third weapon and DNA tests carried out on a latex glove found at the crime scene.

Also, the testimony of Robert Fowler, an ex-convict who said in four depositions that he knew the killers, who were allegedly hired by someone in New York with alleged ties to drug trafficking and apparently to Frank Doso, one of the victims.

Vela assures that among the documents is a police report that mentions shots from a third weapon, which he says destroys the prosecution’s theory.

Originally, the prosecution claimed that Serrano fired two guns simultaneously, something Vela finds unlikely since his defendant is not ambidextrous.

Appeal for retrial

A retrial has been pending for four and a half years, a constitutional process filed by Serrano “for a series of human rights violations,” including, according to his lawyer, being “kidnapped” and illegally taken from Ecuador to the United States, where he has been imprisoned for 21 years.

According to Vela, the case is “paralyzed” because one of the prosecutors who took Serrano out of the country was also involved in the trial, so he believes they are not interested in reopening the case because it is “very compromising.”

“We are aware that it will probably take years to reopen the case,” he said, asserting that the evidence confirms Serrano’s innocence and the episodes of corruption surrounding the case.

Vela hopes that if they succeed in moving the trial from Florida, “the circumstances will probably change,” especially since the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) said he was captured illegally in Quito.EFE