Penalty phase begins in Kopsho capital murder trial
The penalty phase of the trial of William Kopsho, who was convicted last month of 1st-degree murder and armed kidnapping in the death of his wife, began Monday morning at the Marion County Courthouse.
Over the next couple of days, the same 12-member jury who returned a guilty verdict for on May 22, will hear testimony from both sides as it weighs whether to recommend the death penalty or life in prison without parole for the 55-year-old.
Kopsho was found guilty of murdering his estranged wife, Lynne, in October 2000. He shot the 21-year-old three times with a .40-caliber handgun alongside State Road 40, then held bystanders back as they approached to assist the victim.
State prosecutors plan to present 5 aggravating circumstances to try and convince the jury Kopsho deserves a death sentence:
-that the murder occurred during the commission of the felony crime of kidnapping
-that it was especially heinous, atrocious and cruel
-that it was cold, calculated and pre-meditated-
Kopsho is a previously convicted felon who was on probation at the time of the murder
-that Kopsho is previously convicted of a violent crime.
These factors, State Attorney Brad King said in his opening statement,"set this murder and murderer apart from the norm of murder and murderers."
In his efforts to skirt a death penalty recommendation, Chief Assistant Public Defender William Miller plans to present testimony that paints his client as a man raised in a cold, emotionless household in Gary, Ind., whoran afoul of the law from an early age.
"These things do not happen in a vacuum," Miller told jurors. "You're not going to hear him being violent towards anyone other than the women he tried to love."
One of those women, Helen Little, took the stand Monday to describe how Kopsho - a former boyfriend - once sexually battered then kidnapped her in 1991 in Georgia.
"I was afraid of him and I wanted to keep my distance," Little said, recalling her mounting fear of the increasingly possessive man leading up to the crime, for which Kopsho eventually served 5 years in prison followed by 5 years of probation.
Circuit Judge David Eddy must afford the jury's recommendation "greatweight" when he sentences Kopsho at a later date. In April 2005, Eddy chose to sentence the defendant to death based on a 9-3 recommendation for death by a Sumter County jury.
That ruling came at the conclusion of Kopsho's 1st trial on these same charges. That conviction and sentence were later overturned by the Florida Supreme Court in 2007 on a technicality related to jury selection.