Jury recommends death penalty for Joseph Zieler

Reporter: Claire Galt Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:

The jury’s verdict is in for Joseph Zieler: By a vote of 10 to 2, the jury recommended Zieler be put to death.

Due to changes in Florida law, only eight out of 12 jurors needed to recommend the death penalty, and the final decision rested with Judge Robert Branning.

The jury returned to the courtroom around 11 p.m., Wednesday, announcing their recommendation.

Attorneys for Zieler, in a last-ditch effort to save him from the death penalty, called on a neurologist to testify that he suffered from parkinsonism.

Zieler was already found guilty of killing 11-year-old Robin Cornell and her 32-year-old babysitter Lisa Story in 1990.

On Wednesday, the State Attorney told jurors that Zieler’s crimes go beyond murder or double murder: His crimes were so evil and wicked that nobody should hear the gruesome horrors that happened on that day in May 1990. However, Cornell and Story died horrifically from it.

The State Attorney showed the panel pictures again of how Story and Cornell’s bodies were found beaten and sexually assaulted. Jurors were reminded it took three to four minutes for Zieler to suffocate Cornell and Story with a pillow. He could have decided to stop but didn’t.

The State Attorney told the panel to think about the pain and suffering both of the victims felt, experienced, and went through in their last moments.

“What was 11-year-old Robin thinking?” the State Attorney asked. “‘Where’s my mommy? Where is Lisa? Why is this man touching me? I can’t breathe.'”

Zieler’s attorneys called neurologist Dr. Mark Patrick Ravino as their final witness. He testified that parkinsonism can be fatal.

“Eventually, you can’t swallow anymore,” Ravino said.

The defense hoped to show the jury that Zieler was going to die anyway and the death penalty would be unnecessary.

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