The third trial of a Miami woman accused of killing her 3-year-old son and dumping his body in Miami Beach in what became known as the "Baby Lollipops" case is set to begin.
Jury selection began Monday in the trial of 56-year-old Ana Maria Cardona, who received the death penalty in 2011 after she was found guilty of torturing and killing her son, Lazaro "Baby Lollipops" Figueroa, in 1990, and discarding his body outside a Miami Beach mansion.
Police dubbed the boy "Baby Lollipops" because he was wearing a T-shirt with a lollipop image when he was found. Opening statements in the trial are expected to begin later this week.
Last year, for the second time, the Florida Supreme Court vacated the conviction of Cardona and ordered a new trial, citing improper comments made by a prosecutor in the closing arguments.
During the trial's closing arguments, the prosecutor repeatedly called for "Justice for Lazaro." The Supreme Court, in a 28-page decision, said the trial judge erred in allowing prosecutors to repeatedly use the phrase "justice for Lazaro" to the jury. Prosecutors were also wrong, the justices added, in describing the defense case as "diversionary" and calling Cardona herself a "drama expert" who belonged on Spanish-language telenovela program.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said prosecutors will try Cardona on murder and other charges a third time in a case that his riveted South Florida for decades.
Cardona was originally tried in 1992 and found guilty of first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse. She was sentenced to death, but the court reversed the convictions.
According to testimony at both previous trials, Lazaro's badly beaten and scarred body was found by utility workers in Miami Beach on Nov. 2, 1990. Police did not immediately know the boy's identity and decided to call him "Baby Lollipops" as they distributed fliers door-to-door and held frequent news conferences.
Eventually, the investigation led Miami Beach detectives in December to Cardona, who had moved with her other two children and her companion to a motel in Osceola County. She initially claimed, police said, that the boy had fallen and hit his head on a tile floor while jumping on a bed. She also claimed her companion, Olivia Gonzalez, had left the boy in front of the Miami Beach home.