TAMPA — A judge refused a request Friday from defense attorneys for Julie Schenecker to rule that Florida's death penalty is unconstitutional.
The New Tampa mother faces the death penalty if convicted of killing her two teenage children, Calyx and Beau, in 2011.
As is routine in death penalty cases, defense attorneys asserted that the punishment is unconstitutional and should be ruled out. But Circuit Judge Emmett Lamar Battles disagreed, saying Florida justices have upheld it.
Defense attorneys also attempted to have testimony from an across-the-street neighbor of Julie and Parker Schenecker's barred at trial.
The neighbor has told investigators that Julie Schenecker was outside in her yard about two months before the killings, appearing distraught. The neighbor said Schenecker remarked that "I'm going to kill Calyx."
Battles also refused to bar that testimony.
During a break in Friday's hearing, Schenecker turned to two people in the audience behind her and appeared to mouth the words, "I love you."
Her first-degree murder trial is scheduled to begin in April. Schenecker's attorneys have said they will pursue an insanity defense.