Saturday, March 1, 2008

Woman's death penalty overturned, gets new sentencing

Ludmilla Lelis

Sentinel Staff Writer

5:00 PM EST, February 28, 2008


The Florida Supreme Court today agreed that the woman who had been Florida's only female death row inmate should be resentenced.

Virginia Larzelere, 55, had been convicted of masterminding the 1991 murder of her husband, Edgewater dentist Norman Larzelere, at his dental office. She had been the last woman on the state's death row roster.

However, a trial court in 2005 overturned her sentence, ruling that her attorneys failed to present crucial evidence during the penalty phase of her 1992 trial.

Today, the Supreme Court agreed that Larzelere should get a new sentencing hearing, but not a new trial. The justices agreed that her attorneys at her original trial had failed to investigate her childhood and background and present testimony about possible childhood abuse that could have been presented to jurors deciding whether she should get the death sentence. The 1992 jury voted 7 to 5 to recommend her execution.

Larzelere stood to gain millions of dollars by the death of her husband, according to the state's case against her. Norman Larzelere was shot and killed by a masked gunman at his dental office on March 8, 1991. Jason Larzelere, Virginia's son from a previous marriage, was accused of being the triggerman, but was acquitted during a separate trial.

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