Drug dealer facing death for two murders
The New York drug dealer who thought confessing about
his homicidal exploits might make him a friend of police now faces the death
penalty after a Brooklyn federal jury yesterday convicted him of murdering two
Onlookers said Humberto Pepin-Taveras, 44, who generally goes by the name
Pepin, seemed to get choked up as the jury found him guilty of slaying Jose
Rosario in 1992 and Carlos Madrid in 1995, and then dismembering their bodies.
Federal prosecutors sought the death penalty because they said Pepin
committed the murders in connection with his drug dealing activities.
The jury will begin hearing testimony on Oct. 29 on whether Pepin deserves
to be executed. Since the federal death penalty was reinstituted in 1988 there
has only been one capital punishment verdict in the Brooklyn courthouse. Last
year Ronell Wilson was sentenced to death after he was convicted of murdering
narcotics cops Rodney Andrews and James Nemorin on Staten Island. Wilson is
appealing his conviction.
"I am disappointed. It is unnecessary, it is a waste," said defense
attorney Louis M. Freeman after the verdict.
Co-counsel David Lewis said Pepin had offered to plead guilty in the case
months ago in exchange for life in prison. But U.S. Attorney General Michael
Mukasey rejected the offer, Lewis said.
Pepin was serving a term of more than 12 years for a federal drug
conviction when in March 2002 he started confessing to investigators about the
killings of Madrid and Rosario. Sources said Pepin expected to get a break on
his sentence by admitting his involvement in the killings and dismemberments,
but instead got indicted on murder charges in 2004.
"Nothing short of a piece of duct tape across his lips could have kept
[him] from confessing over and over again," said Judge Jack Weinstein in a
decision filed earlier in the case.
In his defense, Pepin argued that the killings were done in self-defense.
Defense witnesses provided evidence that both victims had wanted to kill Pepin.
The jury apparently rejected the self-defense theory, although it is possible
that the same evidence will be used in the penalty phase in an effort to spare
the defendant's life.
In a recent ruling, Weinstein said that he is prepared to tell the jury to
not consider evidence of the dismemberments as a factor in their deliberations
about whether Pepin should be executed.