Inmate spared death penalty in gruesome murder of cellmate
DENVER – A federal prison inmate convicted of killing a cellmate and using his entrails to taunt guards was spared execution when the jury said Friday it could not unanimously agree on the death penalty.William Sablan, 42, faces life in prison without parole at his April 18 sentencing hearing, said Jeff Dorschner, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney.Sablan was convicted of first-degree murder last month in the death of Joey Jesus Estrella, 33.The jury that convicted Sablan had been deliberating his sentence for three weeks. Jurors were not asked in court Friday how many favored the death penalty for Sablan, but all agreed they could not reach a unanimous decision for execution.Sablan and his cousin, Rudy Sablan, 37, were accused of killing Estrella Oct. 10, 1999, after a night of drinking and fighting in the cell they shared at the federal penitentiary in Florence.Rudy Sablan also faces a first-degree murder charge. His trial date has not been set.At William Sablan’s trial, prosecutors said Rudy Sablan strangled Estrella with a headphone cord and that William Sablan used a prison-issue disposable razor to slash Estrella’s neck. An autopsy showed Estrella bled to death and that some of his organs were removed after he died.A videotape shot by prison guards showed William Sablan holding up Estrella’s internal organs and making obscene gestures.Defense attorneys argued that William Sablan had a history of mental illness, brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder that left him unable to control his impulses and deliberately kill Estrella.”It was a long case – a difficult case for everybody,” defense attorney Nathan Chambers said. “We’re, of course, very happy with the result of a life sentence.”U.S. Attorney Troy Eid said Sablan would have to be closely supervised in prison.”He is clearly a menace to society, and I don’t say that lightly,” Eid said.Sablan, who was wearing a gray shirt and dark slacks, stood and faced the judge while the verdict was read. Chambers said none of Sablan’s family members were present, and he believed they were home in Sablan’s native Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands.Sablan was the first federal defendant in Colorado to face the death penalty since Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, who was tried and convicted in Denver after the case was moved from Oklahoma.McVeigh was executed in 2001.
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