Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Judge To Decide Life Or Death

By Thomas W. Krause of The Tampa Tribune

Published: August 22, 2007

TAMPA - A judge, without the aid of a jury, will hear evidence and determine if Charles Grover "Chuck" Brant should spend the rest of his life in prison or die by lethal injection.

Yesterday, a judge threw out a pool of nearly 80 potential jurors who were to help make the decision. Many of the potential jurors did not seem to understand the proceedings and several made comments that suggested Brant should be executed even without a hearing.

Several of the potential jurors said they thought the sentencing hearing was a "waste" and a "formality."

Circuit Judge William Fuente dismissed the panel.

Today, Brant's defense attorneys waived his right to a jury hearing. This is unusual but not unheard of. Beginning at 1 p.m. today, Fuente will hear the evidence and make the sentencing decision on his own.

Brant, 41, was arrested in July 2004 in the raping and strangling of 21-year-old Sara Radfar. Three months ago, he pleaded guilty to the charges. Often when prosecutors seek the death penalty, a defendant will plead guilty under an agreement calling for a penalty of life in prison.

In a few unusual circumstances, when the evidence against a defendant is too great, the defendant will plead guilty even though the prosecution continues to seek execution. In those cases, a jury normally hears evidence and makes a recommendation to the judge about whether the defendant deserves life in prison or death by lethal injection.

Even when a jury does hear the evidence, the jury's decision is only a recommendation. The final sentence is always up to the judge.

Reporter Thomas W. Krause can be reached at (813)259-7698 or

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