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Three Convicted of Murdering Drug Informant

May 14, 1987|Associated Press

LAKE CHARLES, La. — Three Colombians were convicted of first-degree murder Wednesday for the machine-gun slaying of informant Adler (Barry) Seal, whose undercover work had led to an indictment against the alleged leader of a cocaine cartel.

Defendants Luis Carlos Quintero-Cruz, 34; Miguel Velez, 37, and Bernardo Vasquez, 33, showed little emotion when the verdict was read.

State District Judge Charlie Quienalty ordered the punishment phase of the trial to begin immediately. The same jury that decided the guilt of the three will hear additional evidence and determine if they will be sentenced to death or to life in prison without parole.

'Prejudicial Information'

Richard Sharpstein, who represented Velez, said the conviction was based on "prejudicial, extraneous and irrelevant information."

"Instead of trying to present evidence, the prosecution tried to scare the jury," said Robert Moore, the attorney for Quintero-Cruz. "They turned this trial into the history of drugs in America."

Prosecutor Prem Burns said the jury members used a lot of common sense. "It took a lot of gumption on their part," she said.

Seal, 43, was hit by a burst of machine-gun fire while he sat in his car outside a Salvation Army halfway house in Baton Rouge on Feb. 19, 1986.

Federal Charges Filed

Seal's undercover work had resulted in federal charges against Jorge Ochoa, an alleged leader of the Medellin cocaine cartel based in Colombia, who faced extradition from Spain to the United States, authorities said.

A prosecution witness said the Colombian-based smuggling ring, which has been blamed for importing tons of cocaine into the United States, had placed a $500,000 contract on Seal's life.

Seal, who was serving a probated sentence at the halfway house on federal drug and currency charges, had refused to enter the federal witness protection program.

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