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Life or death? Here's what caused the verdict mishap in the cop killer sentencing

Published Mar. 28, 2018

For about 10 minutes, Marco Antonio Parilla, Jr., believed he would die by lethal injection for killing Tarpon Springs officer Charles Kondek in 2014.

But after a judge noticed a mistake on the jury's verdict form, the courtroom learned the jurors' actual verdict: life in prison.

Ten jurors voted for death and two voted for life. In Florida, juries in capital cases must be unanimous.

So what exactly went wrong?

The Tampa Bay Times obtained a copy of the botched verdict form.

RELATED: Jurors in cop killer sentencing recount verdict chaos

First, some background: Under state law, juries in death penalty cases have to weigh aggravating factors presented by the state in favor of the death penalty and mitigating factors presented by the defense against capital punishment.

You can see the verdict form here.

In Section A, jurors must decide if they unanimously find that prosecutors have proven at least one aggravating factor. In the Parilla case, there were three: Kondek was a police officer, Parilla was on felony probation, and he was also trying to avoid arrest. In Section A of their form, jurors indicated they agreed on all factors.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Death for cop killer is a mistake.

In Section B, jurors had to decide if the aggravating factors "warrant a possible sentence of death." They checked "yes."

In Section C, they also checked "yes" to indicate that the state's factors outweighed those presented by the defense.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: The life of Tarpon Springs officer Charles Kondek.

Here's where things went awry:

Section D reads in part: "We the jury unanimously find that Marco Parilla should be sentenced to death."

At the bottom, jurors have the option to check yes or no.

They checked "yes."

But the last sentence of the form says that if they check "no," they should write down their total votes. The jury filled in the blanks with two for life and 10 for death.

That means they should have checked "no" in Section D, leading to the confusion.

You can see the corrected form here.

Contact Laura C. Morel at Follow @lauracmorel.


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