Maldonado guilty on all counts (Aug. 31, 2012)
While the jury has decided that Pablo Maldonado is guilty of the 2009 murder of Tim Clements, their job is far from done. They now have to decide if Maldonado should live in prison or die by lethal injection.
After a long weekend, jurors heard opening statements from both the defense and the prosecution in the penalty phase of the trial. District Attorney Layla Zon told jurors that aside from being convicted for the death of Clements, Maldonado has “in no way been a model inmate at the Newton County Jail.”
While defense attorney Stephen Yekel told the jurors that the defense, and Maldonado, were disappointed with the guilty verdict handed down, that Maldonado was “not the monster he's been portrayed as.” Yekel cautioned them that sympathy for the Clements family can not be taken into consideration during sentencing.
“There's no question in anybody's mind that everyone in the Clements family and everyone he touched has suffered a loss... You have life in your hands. You will determine what happens to this man.”
The state then brought a parade of Newton County Sheriff's Office employees to testify. Some are still in the jail, others have moved on, but all told the same tale. That Maldonado has caused problems since he came to the jail.
Many of the deputies testified to the same thing. That Maldonado was quick to use profanity and racial epithats, to threaten and to refuse to comply with demands – especially when those demands were for him to be inside his cell. One guard said that Maldonado had cut mattresses and broken the window out of his cell, others told jurors how Maldonado would rig his food flap (where guards place meals) so that he could open it and reach out, and how he used paper and cardboard to jam his cell door, making it impossible to open without assistance from the fire department.
On one occasion, the locked door nearly cost Maldonado his life, although, from testimony from guards, it appeared that was the plan.
On Jan. 27, 2011, Maldonado jammed his cell door and began slicing his wrists and his neck with a razor blade he had snuck into his cell. According to testimoney, Maldonado threatened to cut any of the jail personnel if they came inside the cell and at one point reportedly said, “come on Pablo, you can do this. God, I'm coming.” The electricity had to be cut so that firefighters could wedge the door open, but not before Maldonado attempted to hang himself. He was purple by the time they got inside the cell and had to be resessitated. He was taken to Newton Medical Center where he received stitches in his wrist to close it up, and when he retirned to the jail he chewed the stitches out and had to go back to the hospital to be re-stitched.
Yet another jail employee testified that Maldonado began passing her notes when she would drop his mail off. He sent one card, one drawing of her and several letters, which she turned over to Capt. Sammy Banks, who is in charge of the Newton County Jail.
The employee testified that it was not unusual to speak with inmates, and oftentimes that was how they got information about what was going on in the jail. She also said it was far from unusual for female guards to get comments and letters from the male inmates. But she denied ever encouraging Maldonado's writings, and said that she was very happily married. She read the letters to the jurors.
In one letter, Maldonado wrote that she “couldn't hide from destiny” and that “thugs get lonely too.” He also called her a “priceless homegirl” and said a man like him “only comes around once in a lifetime.” He also said that he could give her “two more gifts,” as long as she hadn't “closed your womb yet.”
Before the state concluded with their witnesses at 5:20 p.m., jurors heard emotional testimony from the victim's family members and friends.
“Today we continue life without Tim, without my good friend,” said brother-in-law Wayne Stifler. Friend Will DeBouver said Clements was like a brother to him and “was the kindest man I have ever known.”
Barbara Clements, the widow of the victim, showed the jurors pictures of their family, then told them that her life will be forever changed without Tim in it. The couple were high school sweethearts and had been married nearly 30 years when he was killed.
“It has been very hard for me and my children not to have him in our lives. Tim could always make our day better... it will take a long time for us to get back to a life without pain.”
The victim's son Kyle, who was 15 when his father was killed told jurors he had to “become the man of our household before I was even a man.”
“I just know that for some reason, a great man was taken away from me and my family, but I will never forget the things that he taught me... There are still many things I could have learned from him,” he said.
Last to testify before the state rested was Clements' daughter, just 9-years-old when her father died.
“Without my father my life has changed dramatically. My father was a good man that lived a good life that was taken too soon... He was a good person with an incredible heart.”