Eric Vela – Latino, age 22

Sentenced to death in Madison County, Nebraska
By: A three judge panel
Date of crime: 2002
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Vela was one of four individuals convicted of first degree murder for helping kill five people at a U.S. Bank branch in 2002. In the four day sentencing hearing that took place, Vela’s attorney said that he was forced to participate in the plot and that he was scared and confused. Vela’s attorneys also presented statements from Vela’s family concerning his grim childhood. The prosecution disputed the fact that Vela was a victim and argued that Vela felt no remorse for the killing of Travis Lundell a month prior to the U.S. Bank murders. While Vela was not charged in the Lundell murder, the jury found Vela eligible for the death penalty in part because they believed that Vela had helped kill Lundell and thus had a history of violent crime.
Prosecutor(s): Joe Smith
Defense lawyer(s): Jeffrey Pickens
Sources: Omaha World-Herald 12/13/06 2006 WLNR 21487698; AP-Alert Nebraska 1/12/07 18:01:25