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Cuban immigrant executed in Florida

March 25, 1997

STARKE, Fla. (AP) _ A 39-year-old man was executed in Florida’s electric chair this morning for stabbing a school teacher to death, despite pleas from the pope and the victim’s daughter that his life be spared.

Pedro Medina was the first Cuban immigrant executed in Florida, according to Richard Martell, who defends death sentences for the state.

Medina was one of nearly 125,000 Cubans who came to the United States during the 1980 Mariel boatlift. He was convicted of the 1982 murder of Dorothy James, an Orlando school teacher.

A jury convicted Medina of stabbing James, 52, his former neighbor, after hearing he was found in North Florida with her Cadillac a few days after her slaying. A knife believed to be the murder weapon was found in the car.

Ms. James’ daughter expressed her opposition to the execution, and Pope John Paul II named Medina in just his third plea for mercy in a Florida case.

When Medina moved to Orlando, he was befriended by Ms. James, a neighbor who taught physical education at an elementary school.

Lindi James, a manager for Walt Disney Co., has said she never believed Medina killed her mother and didn’t think her mother would want him executed.

The pope’s representative in the United States, Archbishop Agostino Cacciavillan, also wrote Gov. Lawton Chiles on behalf of the pope in mid-January.

``A gesture of mercy in this case would greatly contribute to the promotion of non-violence and of mutual respect and love in society,″ Cacciavillan wrote.

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