Friday, November 30, 2007

She should die, jury tells judge

JOHN PEMBERTON/The Times-UnionTiffany Cole looks at relatives Thursday as her mother describes photos of Cole as a child. The photos made up a slide show by Cole's attorney during the sentencing phase of her murder trial.

By Steve Patterson,
The Times-Union

Tiffany Cole should die for the kidnapping and murder of a Jacksonville couple buried alive, said a jury whose recommendation Thursday could make Cole the only woman on Florida's Death Row.

Cole's sentence for the deaths of James "Reggie" Sumner and Carol Sumner in July 2005ultimately rests with Circuit Judge Michael R. Weatherby. But the jury's finding is crucial.

It was reached Thursday night after about 40 minutes of deliberation and capped a daylong hearing that included testimony from Cole's family and friends about her kind nature.

A prosecutor urged the jury "do not take the easy way out."

"Carol and Reggie Sumner are dead because of Tiffany Cole," Assistant State Attorney Alan Mizrahi argued. "The dead cannot cry out for justice. It is up to the living."

Cole, 25, would be the first woman sentenced to death in Duval County since 1984, when Andrea Hicks Jackson was sentenced for fatally shooting police officer Gary Bevel. Her term was later changed to life imprisonment.

If Cole avoids the death penalty, she will be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Before sending jurors to deliberate, the judge told them: "it would only be under the rarest of circumstances that I would impose a sentence other than the one you recommended."

Earlier, Mizrahi showed them a photo of the grave in Charlton County, Ga., where the Sumners, both 61 and feeble from illnesses including diabetes, cancer and hepatitis, were buried after being put into the trunk of their own car at their St. Nicholas house.

He also showed a picture of Cole and Michael Jackson, one of her three co-defendants, partying in the back of a limousine with champagne and cash weeks before the killing. He said the Sumners were killed so they couldn't report that Cole, Jackson and the others took their valuables and drained thousands of dollars from their bank accounts using their ATM cards.

"The reason she did this was so she could drive fancy cars, buy fancy clothes and hop from hotel room to hotel room with boys," he said.

Cole's father was a close friend of the Sumners, and prosecutors repeated to the jury that she betrayed the couple and brought brutal robbers to their home.

Defense lawyer Greg Messore said the killings were a jagged piece of a life that otherwise was full of merit.

Jurors listened to extensive testimony about Cole's childhood around Charleston, S.C.

He showed more than 100 photos of Cole - as a toddler, a school cheerleader and band member, a waitress and a young woman with friends and boyfriends - while her mother, Shirley Duncan, narrated. He then said her family loves and misses her.

Two Duval County jail corrections officers described Cole as a model inmate who volunteers to distribute meals and clean the jail.

A former inmate testified that Cole, though significantly younger than her, became a trusted friend who helped her endure being locked up.

Weatherby ordered a hearing Monday to schedule the next steps in sentencing.

Jackson was sentenced to death in August, and a jury has recommended death for another defendant, Alan Wade. The fourth defendant, Bruce Nixon, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and is awaiting sentencing.

Cole didn't move when the jury's decision was announced. About a minute later, teary-eyed, she turned and looked at about 15 relatives sitting in the courtroom, most crying softly.

Relatives of the Sumners, who have sat through a series of trials and hearings, listened quietly to the jury.

Later, in a hallway outside the courtroom, they congratulated Mizrahi and Chief Assistant State Attorney Jay Plotkin on the outcome and talked about next steps in the sentencing while bailiffs led Cole away in shackles.

Carol Sumner's daughter, Rhonda Alford, missed the hearing because of family illness but listened on a speaker phone when the jury recommendation was announced.,

(904) 359-4263


Since 1973, 15 women have been sentenced to death in Florida, according to research quoted by the Death Penalty Information Center, a non-profit research group.

But only two were executed: Judy Buenoano, nicknamed the Black Widow for poisoning her husband for insurance money; and Aileen Wuornos, a prostitute who killed seven men in separate cases and said each raped or tried to rape her. Others, including Jacksonville cop-killer Andrea Hicks Jackson, have had sentences changed. HOMICIDES DATABASE: Learn more about Duval County's homicides since 2004 in a searchable database. More crime and public safety coverage First Coast Fugitivescms_sidebox()


Anonymous said...

why do we kill people, who kill people, to teach people that killing is wrong!?

Anonymous said...

Because you touch yourself at night.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to rape and cum inside this bitch before they kill her.