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Woman on death row may get new sentence

TALLAHASSEE — The last woman on Florida's death row will get a new sentencing hearing because the Florida Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling Thursday.

The justices, though, sustained Virginia Larzelere's murder conviction for masterminding the shotgun slaying of her husband in 1991. A masked man gunned down Dr. Norman Larzelere, 39, in his Edgewater dental office with an assistant and patient present.

Prosecutors said her motive was to collect about $2-million in life insurance and $1-million in assets. Her son, Jason Larzelere, then 18, was charged with being the trigger man, but a separate jury acquitted him.

The high court unanimously agreed with the trial judge that Virginia Larzelere's lawyers botched the sentencing phase of her trial by failing to introduce mitigating evidence about her mental health, sexual abuse as a child and physical abuse in a previous marriage.

Doctors for the state and defense agreed "that, while not psychotic, she suffers from personality disorders, which help explain her relationship troubles and cunning, manipulative behavior," the justices wrote in an unsigned opinion.

That's information the jury never heard before recommending death by a single vote, 7-5. A tie counts as a recommendation for life in prison, the only other choice for first-degree murder. Circuit Judge John Watson followed the jury's advice in sentencing Larzelere, now 55, after her trial in 1993.

Woman on death row may get new sentence 02/28/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 9:19am]
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