Convicted double murderer Joseph Zieler elbows attorney in face ahead of sentencing

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A convicted double murderer had to be tackled to the ground by bailiffs during a hearing on Monday after appearing to purposely elbow his attorney in the face.

Joseph Zieler, convicted in the 1990 murders of 11-year-old Robin Cornell and family friend Lisa Story in Cape Coral, appeared in court shackled at the wrists for sentencing.

Video of the incident shows Zieler call over attorney Kevin Shirley, who leans forward to listen to something Zieler was going to whisper to him, but instead Zieler flung his elbow at the side of Shirley’s head.

Two bailiffs took him to the ground after the altercation.

Zieler was meant to address the court before his sentencing during a Spencer hearing.

Zieler had a number of antics during the jury trial, including raising his middle finger to the camera at one point.

In May, a jury recommended the death penalty for the convicted killer. He took the stand in his defense trial and had a courtroom outburst that his lawyer said didn’t help his case.

Judge Robert Branning will make the final decision on Zieler’s punishment.

While the case dates back to 1990, Florida law regarding the death penalty has recently changed, and that has been the focus of Zieler’s defense team.

A few weeks ago, Zieler filed a motion for a new trial. Another of his attorneys, Lee Hollander, said the recommendation for death was the result of the new law requiring only eight out of 12 jurors to recommend the death penalty. He thinks the judge was wrong to apply the new law to a 33-year-old murder case.

The family of Robin Cornell, however, has waited to see their little girl’s killer put to death since Zieler’s arrest seven years ago.

During closing arguments, the prosecution said capital punishment is nothing compared to the beating, sexual assault and three- to four-minute suffocation deaths Robin and Lisa Story suffered.

“He chose the time of day to enter that condominium; he chose to enter stealthily through the back sliding glass door; and then he attacked Lisa Story in her sleep, and he attacked Robin Cornell in her sleep,” the prosecutor said. “He could have taken the force off the pillows, let Robin Cornell breathe again, let Lisa Story breathe again, and maybe they would have survived.”

The state told the panel to think about the pain and suffering both of the victims felt in their last moments.

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

Joesph Zieler is scheduled to be sentenced at 1:30 p.m. Judge Robert Branning does not necessarily have to follow the jury’s recommendation.

Before the sentence is rendered, Zieler will return to the courtroom for another Spencer hearing for his defense team to put forth mitigating factors.

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