Pa. Killer Is Moved To Site Of Executions A Stay Remained In Effect While The Inmate Traveled To Rockview, To A Cell Near The "Injection Room."

Posted: January 11, 1995

Florencio Rolan yesterday became the first Pennsylvania death row inmate in 33 years to come close enough to execution to be moved to Rockview State Prison in Centre County, where executions in Pennsylvania historically take place.

His execution, originally scheduled for last night, was postponed as a temporary stay remained in effect. The stay, issued Friday by Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Frank J. Montemuro Jr., put off the execution "pending a review by the full court." The court took no action yesterday, so the stay remained in place.

Department of Corrections spokesman Ben Livingood said that Rolan, 38, who was sentenced to death for the May 1983 robbery-slaying of Paulino Santiago in an abandoned house at 17th and Wallace Streets in Philadelphia, was moved from death row at Graterford Prison in Montgomery County early yesterday, arriving at Rockview around noon.

By mid-morning, when Rolan was in transit, the prison system was informed that the court did not intend to review the case yesterday. Prison officials then called off last night's execution.

The death warrant signed by Gov. Casey on Oct. 31 set this week for Rolan's execution by lethal injection, with the warrant expiring at midnight Saturday.

Livingood said the prison system would keep Rolan at Rockview and ''maintain a state of readiness" through the week unless the state Supreme Court or a federal court issued a permanent stay or unless the state court indicated it would take no action this week.

"We have been given no indication whether there will or won't be any action during the warrant period, so we have to be ready to proceed with an execution should that become appropriate," Livingood said.

Rolan's attorney, Sam Silver, has filed for a stay of execution in U.S. District Court.

U.S. District Judge Edmund V. Ludwig held a hearing Friday in the case but did not make a decision on a stay. Ludwig is not expected to do so until the state court concludes its review.

If the execution takes place, it would be the first in Pennsylvania since 1962, when Elmo Smith went to the electric chair for the slaying of a 16-year- old girl.

There are 185 men and women on death row in Pennsylvania.

None since Smith has gotten as far as being moved to Rockview, which is not done until within 24 hours of the time of the scheduled execution, Livingood said. In 1992, Henry Fahy, 37, of Philadelphia, came within 29 hours of his scheduled execution.

THE EXECUTION

At Rockview, the inmate is placed in one of six cells in a special area near the so-called injection room. Livingood said a fast-acting barbiturate and a paralytic agent would be administered by an "injection team," who are in another room behind a two-way mirror so they can see the inmate but witnesses to the execution cannot see them.

The drugs are injected into a tube, which comes through the wall into intravenous lines in the inmate's arms.

Livingood would not identify the team. He said they are trained professionals, but not doctors.

Graterford chaplain Edward Neiderheiser said he spoke with Rolan, whose nickname is "Tito," on Monday.

"He was fairly upbeat," the chaplain said, hopeful that Silver would obtain a stay. "He was very concerned about his family and the stress they are under," according to Neiderheiser. Efforts to reach Rolan's mother and children were unsuccessful.

No information was available on any members of the victim's family.

THE MURDER

According to the prosecution's case at his trial in May 1984, Rolan demanded money from Santiago and, when Santiago refused, shot him in the heart with a rifle. Rolan, then 26, fled to New York City, where he was arrested in November 1983.

To impose a death penalty, a jury must decide that aggravating factors outweigh mitigating ones. Prosecutors argued that Rolan should be put to death

because he had been involved in a previous slaying - in November 1975, of Edward Muldor, then 16, at 17th and Green Streets, about a block from where Santiago died.

Rolan, who lived on Mount Vernon Street near 18th, was convicted of third- degree murder, sentenced to two to seven years, served the minimum, and was paroled, according to trial testimony.

The state Supreme Court later overturned Rolan's conviction, and he pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter when he came up for retrial. Ronald Eisenberg, deputy district attorney, said Rolan also had been convicted of two burglaries and an aggravated assault.

Rolan pleaded with the jury to spare him from the death penalty and impose a life sentence as a lesson against lawbreaking to his two small children, then ages 2 and 4.

When his death warrant was signed in October, Rolan had not yet filed two appeals generally allowed to death row inmates: a post-conviction relief petition in state court and a habeas corpus petition in federal court.

The issue before the courts now is whether he has lost his right to a stay of execution by not filing an appeal during the six years since his conviction was upheld in the first, direct appeal to the state Supreme Court.

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