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Jurors avoid death penalty, sentence men to life without parole

Updated Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2009 | 2:23 p.m.

Luxor Bombing Trial (8-27-09)

Porfirio Duarte-Hererra (left) and Omar Rueda-Denvers listen Thursday during closing statements in their trial. The men are charged with placing a bomb in a coffee cup and putting it on the truck of Willebaldo Dorantes Antonio, which killed him when it exploded on May 7, 2007. Launch slideshow »

A jury on Tuesday spared two men from the death penalty and sentenced them to life in prison without parole for killing a man with a pipe bomb.

On Monday, Omar Rueda-Denvers and Porfirio “Pilo” Duarte-Herrera pleaded with jurors to show them mercy and spare their lives. The men on Friday were found guilty of first-degree murder, attempted murder and of related bomb possession charges.

Besides the death penalty or life without parole, jurors could have sentenced them to 100 years with parole possible after 40 years or life with parole possible after 40 years.

Prosecutors pushed for the death penalty but were satisfied with the jurors’ decision to spare their lives, saying the sentence is still vindication for the victims.

“This is justice,” said Nell Kennan, deputy district attorney. “We accept the verdict and the community should accept the penalty that these jurors have given down.”

Jurors began deliberations Monday and were sent home late in the evening. They resumed deliberations this morning and reached their decision at about 11 a.m., said District Court spokesman Michael Sommermeyer.

Attorneys for both defendants said they would appeal the verdict at least in part on their belief that the trials should have been severed.

“I think that the jury did a great job. I think that both men would probably have gotten a little fairer trial tried separately,” said Clark Patrick, Duarte-Herrera's attorney. “I think their levels of culpability are somewhat different and I think there was maybe some spillover effect from Mr. Denvers to Mr. Duarte-Hererra.”

The pipe bomb exploded on the garage roof of the Luxor on May 7, 2007, killing Willebaldo Dorantes Antonio. His girlfriend, Caren Chali, was near the explosion but was unharmed.

When the verdict was read today, the defendants showed no emotion.

On Monday, the men both expressed remorse to Dorantes Antonio’s family and asked jurors to show them compassion.

“My own life is in your hands,” Herrera, 29, said through a Spanish translator.

Denvers, 33, spoke without the translator’s help and said, “I want to say I’m so sorry to the family Dorantes. I want to say ‘I love you’ to my daughters.”

Prosecutors contended throughout the trial that Chali spurned Denvers’ attempts to reconcile their intimate relationship and sought the help of his friend, Herrera, to get his revenge. Denvers’ attorneys said he was just trying to find the daughter he had with Chali.

The bomb tore off Dorante Antonio’s hand and sent a piece of metal into his head, which killed him.

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