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Death defeated smoker's optimism

Jurors hear the taped deposition of a Pasco woman, who later died, as she held out hope for recovery from cancer.

With a 40-year history of smoking and surgery for lung and brain cancer behind her, Angie Della Vecchia was optimistic she would get her life back when her radiation treatment was over.

But the New Port Richey housewife would be dead in seven months at age 53. Her video legacy was played Wednesday for a jury considering damages against the cigarette industry in a landmark smokers' case.

Della Vecchia spoke softly during a deposition taped in November 1998. Her radiation therapy left her "tired and vomiting, but I'm hoping when the treatment is way behind me, that I might get everything back," she said.

Della Vecchia's husband, Ralph, cried when his wife's image appeared on screens before court convened.

On cross-examination, industry attorneys focused on her attempts to quit smoking and dismissed them as "several minor attempts" that were "a joke," a phrase borrowed from another deposition she gave a month earlier.

An attorney for an estimated 500,000 sick Florida smokers rested after the video played. The same jury considering whether to award as much as $300-billion in damages decided last July that the nation's five biggest cigarette makers fraudulently conspired to produce a dangerous and defective product.

The industry was expected to argue motions for directed verdicts in favor of the defense Friday and begin its case Monday if the judge rules against cigarette makers.