Jury: Execute Waffle House killer
A jury recomended that Gerhard Hojan be sent back to death row after law allowed his case to be re-heard.
Gerhard Hojan’s pleas for mercy were rejected by a Broward jury Thursday.
After nine hours of deliberation over two days, the jury recommended that Hojan, 43, be put to death for the murders of two Waffle House employees in 2002.
It would be Hojan’s second trip to death row for the crimes — he was originally sentenced to death after his convictions in 2003. But the jury that recommended death 15 years ago was not unanimous — the law permitted a judge to order an execution as long as a majority of jurors recommended it.
That changed in 2016, and Hojan won the right to have his fate determined by a new jury. He is the first of a dozen former death row inmates whose cases need to be re-heard because the Broward juries that condemned them were not unanimous.
This time, Broward State Attorney Mike Satz was able to convince all nine women and three men on the jury that the murders of Willie Absolu and Christina Delarosa were especially heinous and cruel and committed both to avoid arrest and during an armed kidnapping.
Throughout the retrial of Hojan’s penalty phase, defense lawyers Mitch Polay and H. Dohn Williams sought to present a number of mitigating factors the jury could use to justify mercy for Hojan.
The jury found that some of those mitigating factors did exist, but they were outweighed by the aggravating factors that justified execution: The victims were herded into the back freezer of the Waffle House, south of Griffin Road near Interstate 75 in Davie.
The victims huddled for warmth as they feared for their lives — a third victim, Barbara Nunn, told the other two that she was sure they would not survive because they could identify Hojan and his co-defendant, Jimmy Mickel.
After marching them back to the freezer, Hojan returned to the trio three times. The last time, he shot all three. Then he and Mickel left, unaware that Nunn survived to let investigators and juries know what happened.
Mickel is serving five life sentences for his role in the robbery and kidnapping, but he was acquitted of the murders in 2003.
Hojan’s fate is not sealed — Broward Circuit Judge Paul Backman is permitted to override the jury’s recommendation. Lawyers on both sides are due back in court Dec. 10 for a hearing during which defense lawyers will get one more chance to plead for mercy.
Backman is retiring Dec. 31, so it is all but certain he will make his decision before then.
Gerhard Hojan showed no reaction Thursday when a jury recommended he be executed.