NEW PORT RICHEY — John Sexton, facing a possible death sentence for the brutal rape and murder of a 94-year-old woman in 2010, told a judge Friday he was not satisfied with his lawyers and may choose to represent himself.
"They demonized me as the client during the penalty phase," he said. "We didn't have a positive character reference. We had nothing."
Sexton was convicted earlier this year of killing his elderly neighbor, Ann Parlato. Her murder was described as one of the most gruesome that Pasco deputies could remember. Parlato's face was crushed beyond recognition, her ribs broken, her spine dislocated. Her injuries indicated she had been sexually assaulted before her death, and stabbed and burned afterward.
By a 10-2 vote, a jury recommended the death penalty in May but the judge has yet to impose a sentence.
At his sentencing hearing, Sexton's lawyers described an abusive upbringing, problems with alcohol and bipolar disorder. His attorney also noted that Sexton, who once owned a waterproofing company, was exposed for years to industrial chemicals that might have harmed his brain.
On Friday, Sexton told Circuit Judge Mary Handsel he felt his sentencing was "upside down" and his lawyers didn't present enough mitigating factors or call witnesses in his behalf. Sexton is represented by publicly appointed counsel.
Defense attorney Byron Hileman argued for a life sentence. "That decision should not be based on emotion or anger or vengeance," he told jurors. "It should be based upon the law of Florida and the Constitution."
Handsel told Sexton he had the option of representing himself if he desired, and set a hearing for September where he or his lawyers can call more witnesses.