Men charged in killing of 3 children won't face death, their attorneys say

Review The Sun's summary of the 2004 killings of three Mexican children and the subsequent trials here.
Two Mexican immigrants accused of killing three children in Northwest Baltimore in May will not face the death penalty, according to defense lawyers who said they were told that by prosecutors. Instead, the city state's attorney's office will seek life without parole, said James Rhodes, the lawyer for one of those accused, Adan Espinoza Canela.

Canela and Policarpio Espinoza Perez are scheduled to appear at a hearing tomorrow in Circuit Court, where prosecutors are expected to say they will not seek capital punishment.

At 17, Canela is too young under state law to face capital punishment, but the 22-year-old Perez could have been eligible. Both have pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors would not comment yesterday. But the city's top prosecutor, Patricia C. Jessamy, has said in the past that her office would seek death for defendants accused of killing a police officer or other "heinous" crimes.

Ricardo Solis Quezada Jr. and Lucero Solis Quezada, both 9, and their 10-year-old male cousin, Alexis Espejo Quezada, were found dead May 27 in their Fallstaff apartment. One child was beheaded and the others were partially decapitated.

Rhodes said the victims' families have been made aware of the state's attorney's decision not to seek the death penalty.

Noemi Quezada, mother of Ricardo and Lucero, has said that she believes Perez and Canela are innocent and that police are not looking for the real killers - a sentiment that has been echoed by many of the victims' relatives.

Perez is Canela's uncle and an uncle of the dead children. Canela was the children's cousin.

Although she would not speak specifically about the case, city state's attorney spokeswoman Margaret T. Burns said Jessamy reviews factors in a potential death penalty case and consults the victim's family before deciding what punishment to seek.

"Their feelings are a significant factor that weighs very heavily" in the decision, Burns said.

Another potential reason that Jessamy might not be seeking the death penalty for Perez is that the evidence so far has not pointed to him as the person who might have done the killing - a requirement under Maryland's death penalty statute, said Michael Milleman, a University of Maryland law professor.

"You've got to establish that the person killed with their own hands, and the burden is on the prosecutor to prove that beyond a reasonable doubt," he said.

Perez and Canela are scheduled for a jury trial Dec. 13, although defense attorney Rhodes said it is unlikely that lawyers would be ready by that date.

Rhodes also said the men would probably be tried separately.

Prosecutors had sought the death penalty in a recent case in which a man was convicted of gunning down police officer Thomas G. Newman, but a Baltimore jury spared Jovan House's life. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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