A jury has recommended the death penalty for a man convicted in the brutal rape and murder of a Miami teen and the attempted murder of her boyfriend.
After two hours of deliberation, the jury voted nine to three for the death penalty for Joel Lebron, 33.
Prosecutor Reid Rubin had urged jurors to recommend the death sentence for the man. Lebron was convicted last week of first-degree murder, rape, attempted first-degree murder, robbery and kidnapping in the crime.
"This man knew what he was doing, he knew how he was doing it, he enjoyed it," Rubin said Friday.
He continued to describe 18-year-old Ana Maria Angel's death to the jury.
"And then he began to fire his gun while she pleaded for her life, and pleaded for her life until she was dead," Rubin said.
Jessica Gutierrez, a friend of Angel, said that the 18-year-old's mother was fighting for justice for her daughter.
"This is her only reason right now for living," she said. "Making sure all the men get prosecuted."
The final decision on death or life in prison is up to a judge, who set a Nov. 9 hearing date.
Police said Lebron and four other Orlando men kidnapped Angel.Angel and her boyfriend, Nelson Portobanco, at gunpoint while the couple was taking an evening stroll on South Beach.
The men gang-raped Angel and then Lebron executed her on the side of I-95 in Boca Raton with a gunshot to the head, prosecutors said. Lebron also stabbed Portobanco multiple times in an effort to kill him, but Portobanco survived.
In court Thursday, a social worker in Puerto Rico testified for the defense, arguing Lebron lived in poverty and was picked on by his brothers.
"They used to fight each other and smack him and they were kind of physical and verbally abusive to him," Jose Lopez said.
But two doctors who took the stand later showed brain scans of Lebron. They said a head injury he sustained when he was 4 years old had nothing to do with the April 2002 killing.
"This is a brain that's working at a high level of function, integrated, certainly no evidence of brain injury so far that I can tell," said neurologist Ray Lopez, who examined Lebron in jail last year.
During the first day of the sentencing phase Wednesday, prosecutor Reid Rubin painted a heartrending portrait of Angel, who was a school leader, athlete, and beautiful.
"But sadly this is the lasting memory that they will have because of what the defendant did to her,” Rubin said, showing jurors an evidence photo.
Lebron’s sister told the court about her brother’s hardscrabble up bringing in Puerto Rico, and the car accident when he was 4 years old.
"Joel was never the same after that accident," said his attorney, Jeff Fink.
The just-concluded trial was the second for Lebron, after the first one ended in a mistrial earlier this month because a detective inadvertently testified that one of the other defendants had already been convicted.