The sentencing phase in the trial of a man convicted of the brutal rape and murder of a Miami teen and attempted murder of her boyfriend began Wednesday.
A state prosecutor painted a heartwrenching portrait of one of the victims of Joel Lebron's crimes, while his attorney tried to avoid the death penalty for his client.
Lebron, 33, was convicted of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, robbery and kidnapping in the shocking April 2002 crime last Friday.
Police said Lebron and four other Orlando men kidnapped 18-year-old Ana Maria Angel and her boyfriend, Nelson Portobanco, at gunpoint while the couple was taking an evening stroll on South Beach.
The men gang-raped 18-year-old 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.
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 how he had been severely injured when struck by a car.
That point was amplified by his attorney, Jeff Fink.
"You’re gonna hear that Joel was never the same after that accident," he said.
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.
The penalty phase is expected to last two days.