Terance Valentine enjoys playing basketball in Plaza Víquez, in south San José. He misses playing there. Valentine likes going to the market, eating ceviche and taking walks at night so he can observe the stars. The description sounds ripped from the most pathetic of personal ads. Would you like to date Mr. Valentine?
In reality, those words were heard in a news report this week by Channel 7’s Telenoticias about a Costa Rican man locked in a Florida prison.
An article on the news station’s website accompanying broadcast segments mentions Valentine’s murder conviction zero times, yet cites the criminal’s love of sport and long walks under the night sky. A second article mentions the murder and includes vague details about the case. A third article also doesn’t mention the conviction. In exclusive interviews with Valentine, a Telenoticias reporter lobbed one softball question after another at the inmate.
The coverage shows jingoism and bias in its most repulsive form (despite one of the victims being Costa Rican), on the country’s most popular news show – a program that in the past has demonstrated excellent works of journalism.
Valentine has waited on Florida’s death row for 18 years after being found guilty of murdering Ferdinand Porche. His Costa Rican ex-wife, Livia Romero, survived the attack.
Costa Rica’s Foreign Ministry recently asked the United States for clemency, saying they “could not remain silent before a death penalty sentence on a Costa Rican citizen.”
The Tico Times has never supported the death penalty. We have written editorials in the past condemning capital punishment. We applaud the Costa Rican government’s efforts to modify the punishment.
However, we cannot ignore such little concern for facts and journalistic integrity from a highly respected Costa Rican news source.
Below are the paraphrased gory details, taken from official court documents:
Terance Valentine and his wife Livia Romero immigrated to the U.S. in 1975. Romero sought a divorce from her husband in 1986, and moved from New Orleans to Tampa, Florida with Ferdinand Porche. … On Sept. 9, 1989, Ferdinand Porche returned home when Valentine shot him in the back, severing his spinal cord, paralyzing him from the waist down. … Porche was forced to crawl into the bedroom where he saw his pregnant wife naked, bound and gagged, and his baby crying. …Valentine then transported Porche and Romero to a remote location and shot them both. Romero survived the attack. … She started receiving more threatening calls from Valentine. With the help of police recording devices, Romero taped the phone conversations from Valentine, which subsequently led to his arrest.
Does Valentine sound like a sympathetic character? Did the TV station read the court documents? If Romero had not recovered from the attack, Valentine still might be a free man. Telenoticias focused its attention on analyzing frugal conditions of a prison cell.
The reporter let Valentine manipulate the truth. One claim in particular, that he was in Costa Rica during the crime, is offensive to see in the Telenoticias report, considering all the evidence, including the threatening phone calls made after the crime to the surviving victim.
During Valentine’s most recent appeal in December, there was no debate about whether Valentine killed Porche. He did – after he brutally tortured him. He tried to kill Romero too, and nearly succeeded.
His lawyers now argue that psychological evaluations show Valentine has mental problems, an overinflated sense of self. He was impulsive and could not control his actions. These arguments could result in the death penalty sentence being overturned by the higher court.
Don’t heave conspiracy theories at the Florida court system either. In 1990, Valentine was found guilty and sentenced to death for his crimes. After an appeal, the Florida Supreme Court dismissed the conviction after defense accusations of racial bias in the jury-selection process. In the retrial that followed, a new jury convicted Valentine of murder a second time in 1994.
The TV station allowed a murderer to turn a death penalty debate into a sappy tale of nostalgia. To proffer such creamy treatment to Valentine is an affront to the real victims and their families. A man is dead. A Costa Rican woman, Livia Romero, has lived each day since 1989 with the memories of that nightmare. Children lost their father.
We can protest the death penalty. We also remember who Terance Valentine truly is – a cold-blooded killer.