I wrote an article during the hot summer of 2001, a couple of months
before the attack on the World Trade Center about the fate of two Filipino
brothers who allegedly killed a popular Jersey City policeman during the July
4th celebration. The two suspects were arraigned on two and five million
dollar bonds respectively. It is alleged that the cop was beaten to death
with a lead pipe after an argument over the fireworks being set off by the
children of the Gavina brothers. The clamor for immediate punishment as harsh
as the death penalty is strong with the policeman in question having had an
impeccable record. The suspected party is slowly mounting a Self-defense
plea. The Gavina family said, "They are not violent and destructive men.
They are not criminals. They are simple and hardworking citizens who only got
involved in an unimaginable tragedy."
Rather than present you from what
I heard from friends and kababayan, below are some excerpts from our local
newspaper, the Jersey Journal, related to the Gavina Trial and verdict. It
was running for almost three weeks
The brothers are accused of murdering 29-year-old Domenick Infantes, who
died two days after being struck in the head with a 4-foot pipe during a
confrontation that began with children throwing fireworks.
Witnesses for the prosecution said Infantes had identified himself as a
police officer and was trying to defuse a confrontation between the brothers
and Brian Belka, who said the Gavinas' teenage sons and two other boys threw
firecrackers too close to him and his family as they were leaving a Fourth of
July party at a neighbor's house.
Prosecutors said Infantes was struggling with Alfredo Gavina when
Benjamin Gavina came up behind him and hit him on the back of the head with
the metal pipe.
Defense attorneys argued that
the brothers were acting in self-defense after Infantes and Belka attacked
Alfredo Gavina on his property. Three of the four boys who were setting off
the firecrackers - 15-year-old Alfred, son of Alfredo Gavina; 12-year-old
Ralph, son of Benjamin Gavina; and 15-year-old John Raymond Mendoza - told
jurors on Monday that the Gavina men were attacked by Belka and Infantes.
The boys said Benjamin Gavina asked Belka what was going on and Belka
grabbed him and punched him in the head.
Alfred Gavina testified that
when his uncle approached Infantes and said "We don't want
trouble," Infantes responded, "(expletive deleted) you."
attorneys also presented testimony from a forensic chemist last week who said
that Infantes' blood-alcohol level was at 0.14, according to his autopsy. By
way of comparison, a driver is considered legally drunk in New Jersey at a
blood-alcohol level of 0.10 or higher. If found guilty, Benjamin Gavina could
face the death penalty. His brother could face life in prison.
Since the death sentence was reinstated in New Jersey in 1982, no person
convicted of capital murder in Hudson County has been sentenced to death by a
jury. The sister of the two brothers charged with killing a Jersey City
police officer was banned from the courtroom yesterday after she stood up and
praised God as the jury filed past her after their first morning of
Flora Limpin held her prayer book with both hands and raised it above her
head, then faced the jury and said "Glory to God in the highest."
Domenick Infantes Sr. said he saw Limpin's action and told Hudson County
Assistant Prosecutor Michael D'Andrea, who in turn told Hudson County state
Superior Court Judge Kevin Callahan. Callahan then cleared the courtroom and
had Infantes Sr. and Limpin testify in a private hearing. Jury deliberations
ended after just 10 minutes yesterday in the trial of two Jersey City
brothers accused of killing an off-duty policeman during a confrontation on
the Fourth of July two years ago.
Two brothers charged with fracturing the skull of Jersey City Police
Officer Domenick Infantes were found not guilty of murder charges yesterday.
Benjamin Gavina, 45, was found guilty of the least severe homicide charge he
faced - reckless manslaughter - while 42-year-old Alfredo Gavina was cleared
on all charges. Emerito F. Salud, a founder of a Jersey City-based
organization that raised more than $10,000 toward the Gavinas' $300,000
defense costs, was ecstatic yesterday, but said the jury should have
acquitted Benjamin Gavina of all charges as well. "I'm so glad,"
said Salud, of Filipino Americans for Social Justice. "I'm glad that the
jury remained steadfast in the pursuit of what is right. It is not so much
what is good, but what is right."
Jury members will begin deliberating this afternoon in the capital murder
trial of two brothers charged with killing an off-duty Jersey City police
officer two years ago.
The courtroom was packed to capacity yesterday as friends and relatives
from both sides watched the defense and prosecution present their closing
arguments at the conclusion of the three-week trial of Alfredo Gavina, 42,
and Benjamin Gavina, 45.
Several Jury decisions has been unpredictable lately but this one that
hits the heart of the Filipino community couldn't be rendered fairer. The
killing of a supposedly impeccable policeman by the Gavinas was a tragedy.
The Gavinas coming from ordinary Filipino-American community without prior
records shared the outrages when the bail was set relatively high and warned
repeatedly of the death penalty. With out support groups and leadership of
minority like Al Sharpton, it was seemingly was a lost cause against the
prosecution's slam-dunk murder case. A jury of white, black and one Asian
spoke that day and I completely agree, it is not murder nor self defense.