Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Impending Execution of Manuel Pardo

Manuel Pardo sits on death row awaiting execution by the people of Florida on December 11, 2012. I suspect he will not survive the day.

I summarize his case by repeating the entry for Manuel Pardo in Murderpedia. I note that Murderpedia apparently took their entry from Hunting Humans: An Encyclopedia of Modern Serial Killers, by Michael Newton.
Manny Pardo was 21 years old when he joined the Florida Highway Patrol in 1978, but his first stint in law enforcement was short lived. 
Accused of falsifying more than 100 traffic warnings and correction notices, he was allowed to resign a year after he joined the force in lieu of being fired. It seemed a small concession at the time, but it was all he needed: two months later, Pardo was hired by the Sweetwater Police Department to patrol a Miami suburb. Still, his problems continued, and in 1981, Pardo was one of four officers charged in a series of brutality cases filed by the state attorney general's office. 
Those charges were later dismissed, but Pardo was fired on January 21, 1985, after he flew to the Bahamas to testify in defense of another ex-cop held for trial on drug-running charges. 
Even then, the worst was yet to come. On May 7, 1986, Pardo and 25-year-old Roland Garcia were arrested on murder charges, accused in the execution style slayings of drug dealer Ramon Alvero Cruz and his girlfriend, Daisy Ricard, who were shot and killed on April 23. 
Weeks later, on June 11, Metro Dade officials announced that Pardo and Garcia were linked to a total of nine murders -- victims including six men and three women -- dating back to January 1986. 
Detective Ted MacArthur told the press, "They were drug ripoffs, and quantities of cocaine were taken from the scene." The killing spree had ended with Ramon Alvero Cruz, alleged to be Pardo's underworld employer since he was fired by Sweetwater PD. 
As evidence against the killer cop, prosecutors cited Pardo's diary, which included written entries about the murders along with news clippings and photographs of several bloody corpses. Nazi memorabilia recovered from Pardo's home, together with the prisoner's own statements, revealed that he was also an ardent admirer of Adolf Hitier, believing that jews and blacks were inferior species deserving of extermination. 
Legal maneuvers delayed Pardo's trial for two years, but prosecutor David Waksman stood by the state's original theory of an ex-cop gone bad, addicted to cocaine and easy money, killing coke dealers to rip off their stashes, eliminating any witnesses who crossed his path. Pardo denied it, painting himself as a one-man vigilante squad committed to eliminating "parasites" and "leeches" from law-abiding society. His court appointed lawyer, Ronald Guralnlck, was committed to a different tack, presenting an insanity defense. "The man is crazy," Guralnick told reporters. "All you have to do is listen to him to know he's totally out of his mind." 
And, indeed, Pardo seemed intent on proving that point when he took the witness stand in his own defense on April 13, 1988. Testifying against Guralnick's advice, Manny didn't bother to deny the killings; rather, he regretted that his final body count had been so low. "Instead of nine," he told the court, "I wish I could have been up here for ninety-nine." Furthermore, he declared, "l enjoyed what I was doing. I enioyed shooting them. They're parasites and they're leeches, and they have no right to be alive. Somebody had to kill these people." He shot his victims multiple times after death, Manny said, to further "punish" them for their crimes, and he had taken Polaroid snapshots of the corpses, afterward burning some in an alabaster ashtray. "I sent their souls to the eternal fires of damnation of hell," he testified, "for the misery they caused." 
Pardo staunchly denied the state's claim that he, himself, was a mercenary drug dealer. The very idea was "ludicrous" and "ridiculous," he said. Prosecutor Waksman asked about the $50,000 Pardo had earned from selling two kilos of stolen cocaine, the sum recorded in his diary, but Manny insisted that he had kept only $2,000 for himself -- the bate minimum required to purchase guns and ammunition. After Pardo remarked that bullets cost him ten cents each, Waksman asked him whether it had cost him only $1.30 to kill two victims who were shot a total of 13 times. Pardo grinned as he replied, "Thats a pretty good investment, isn't it?" 
With Pardo's sanity at issue, both sides called psychiatrists to testify about his mental state. Syvil Marquit, appearing for the defense, reported that Pardo was insane and had been at the time of the nine murders. Manny was competent for trial, Marquit said, and understood the physical consequence of his actions, "but he doesn't know right from wrong." Court appointed psychologist Leonard Haber, on the other hand, testified for the state that Pardo was "sane, but evil." Manny, for his part, agreed with the state, at least in regard to his sanity. As for psychologists, he told the court, "They're whores. Pay them enough money and they'll say anything." 
Pardo's extreme racist views may have hurt him as much as the physical evidence of his guilt when he appeared before a jury that included five blacks and two jews. Metro Dade detectives listed the Nazi paraphernalia found in his home and describes the swastika tattoo worn by one of his dogs, a Doberman pinscher. Manny pitched in with testimony that Adolf Hitler was a "great man" whose activities had inspired Pardo to read more than 500 books on Nazism. The jury deliberated for six hours on April 15 before convicting Pardo of nine murders and nine other felony counts, including robbery and use of a firearm in commission of a crime. 
Court reconvened five days later to consider Pardo's sentence. Attorney Guralnick and Manny's parents pleaded for leniency, citing his deranged mental state, while prosecutor Waksman argued the reverse. "He was weird, weird, weird," Waksman said, "but he was not insane." Pardo, meanwhile, was determined to remain the star performer in his own private drama. "I am a soldier," he told the court. "I accomplished my mission, and I humbly ask you to give me the glory of ending my life and not to send me to spend the rest of my life in state prison. I'm begging you to allow me to have a glorious end." The jury complied, and judge Phillip Knight accepted their recommendation, handing down one death sentence for each of Pardo's nine murders, plus a term of 15 years in prison for the noncapital charges. 
His commitment to death notwithstanding, Pardo made no objection when his conviction and sentence were automatically appealed to the Florida Supreme Court. There, on March 6, 1990, public defender Calianne Lantz told the assembled justices that Pardo was insane when he committed his nine murders. Assistant Attorney General Ralph Barreira disagreed, describing Manny as a brute who simply liked to kill. The court agreed with Barreira, affirming Pardo's conviction and the "special circumstances" which allowed his execution under Florida state law. A year later, on May 13, 1991, the US Supreme Court effectively upheld that decision, denying Pardos plea for a writ of certiorari. 
Pardo, meanwhile, had managed to attract at least a handful of admirers while his case was winding through the courts. One such, a self-described friend of the convicted serial killer, voiced his support in a letter to the Orlando Sentinel Tribune, published on April 22, 1990. It read, in part:
Manny was never accused of corruption. He was let go for his overzealousness in pursuit of criminals -- no matter who they knew or whose relatives they were. And lest anyone get the idea that he just cruised around gunning people down, let me point out each of his victims was a thoroughly investigated, tried, convicted, and executed (by him) drug dealer whom Pardo had failed to get off the streets via the normal criminal justice system. Manny Pardo doesn't deserve condemnation, he deserves a commendation.
In fact, as even cursory research would have shown, Manny had been fired in Sweetwater for "showing a lack of good judgment and a habit of lying" -- specifically in defense of an accused drug dealer -- but the details hardly mattered. He was awaiting execution at Starke, the state's maximum-security prison ... but he was not entirely out of action yet. 
In March 1996 the Miami Herald revealed that Pardo, now christened the "Death Row Romeo," had been placing personal ads in tabloid newspapers, attracting lonely female pen pals who had mailed him thousands of dollars in return for hollow promises of love. The Herald reported that Manny had once accumulated some $3,530 in his prison canteen account, most of it sent to him by women, but prison officials declared that he had broken no rules, "although he may have broken several hearts." The lure was an ad that painted Manny in a near-heroic light. It read:
FLA. 116-156 CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTE INMATE. Ex-cop Vietnam vet. Took law into own hands and ended up on Death Row. He needs letters from sensitive-understanding female, for real -- honest relationship.
One who responded was Barbara Ford, a 46-year-old cleaning woman from Findlay, Ohio. Three weeks after she answered Pardo's ad, Ford received a letter from Manny, along with several news clips describing his police career in a favorable light. The letter told her, "I want one special lady in my life. I don't play emotional games cause I hate emotional games. I also hate liars and users." From the beginning, Pardo's correspondence always addressed to "the love of my life" -- swiftly degenerated into a litany of complaints, invariably closing with mention of his need for "a few bucks a week to buy personal items like stamps, paper, shampoo, etc." One note describes a tearful prison visit from his daughter, quoting her as saying, "Daddy, when I'm older and able to work, I will buy you a radio so you can listen to music and I will send you money from my weekly check so you can buy coffee, shampoo and your other needs." 
In the meantime, Barbara Ford was happy to take up the slack, sending Pardo $430 from her yearly income of $7,500. Another "love of his life," mailing cash at the same time, was 54-year-old Betty Ihem from Oklahoma who began corresponding with Pardo 10 months before he hooked Barbara Ford. By the time Ford entered the picture, Pardo and Ihem were addressing each other as husband and wife, Betty collecting 275 letters from her incarcerated lover, sending him $1,200 over time from the salary she earned as a part-time WalMart employee. 
The correspondence was finally too much for Pardo, who tripped himself up with a clumsy mistake. On October 12, 1995, Betty Ihem received a letter meant for Barbara Ford. It read: 
My Dearest Barb,
Hi. I hope this letter finds you in the best of health. You are all I want and need. I am not a dream and if my love interests you, well then it's yours.
I love you,
Predictably furious, Ihem sent the letter on to Ford, with her own explanatory note written on the back. Eight days later, Ford wrote to Pardo, addressing him as "Thief of Hearts" and enclosing photocopies of the money orders she had previously sent him.
You received the money under false pretenses (she wrote) which makes you a fake and not the 'Man of Honor' which you professed to be, Needless to say, you are a liar and a hypocrite -- the very things you said you hated in people. If you choose not to return the money, I will be your very worst nightmare and expose you for the hypocrite you truly are. I'm not a very patient person so I hope you respond to my request immediately. The choice is yours.
Pardo replied on November 2, 1995, with all the arrogance of a condemned prisoner who knows he is effectively untouchable.
I hope you are in good health. I am reading your letter and am amazed you think your threats would affect me at all! You and your troubled life will also be exposed. In addition, my attorney will have a field day with you and that will be your nightmare lawsuit for slander, etc. You are a bitter and vindictive woman.
God bless,
Ford took her case to Florida governor Lawton Chiles on November 18, asking, "What kind of people are you in Florida? You have a guy on Death Row, and he still hurts people." Her reply carne from Judy Belcher at the Florida Department of Corrections on November 29, advising Ford that no law forbade prisoners from placing personal ads or soliciting gifts from gullible pen pals. "On the contrary," Belcher wrote, "Florida Statutes have ruled it illegal to deny inmates that privilege because doing so would deny inmates access to the outside world. Many inmates, both male and female, have accumulated considerable amounts of money this way. They are convicts and some are experts at 'conning' honest people out of their hard earned dollars. Often, when we advise a person that an inmate is not being honest, the person will still choose to believe the inmate." 
With that grudging seal of approval, Manny Pardo was free to pursue his career as a death-row swindler. Only the final, inevitable date with "Old Sparky" will curtail his correspondence with gullible women, and no final execution date has been set at this writing. With others who have killed repeatedly across the Sunshine State, Pardo takes his ease with pen in hand and plays the waiting game.
I take no position on the righteousness or foolishness of the death penalty. I do, however, oppose the execution of anyone who has a substantial claim of actual innocence. For all other instances, I stand mute regarding the probity of the execution. In the case of Manuel Pardo, I stand mute.

ADDENDUM (12 Dec 2012): Manuel Pardo was executed on 11 December 2012 by the people of Florida.