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    Sentenced to death, killer remains defiant

    By CANDACE RONDEAUX, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published November 23, 2002

    LARGO -- If Franklin Delano Floyd was at all surprised when a judge sentenced him to death on Friday, he certainly didn't show it.

    Floyd smiled ironically and shook his head, as a Pinellas-Pasco judge read the final words of the sentence affirming a jury's unanimous recommendation to put him to death for the 1989 murder of a 19-year-old Brandon woman.

    The victim's family and a handful of the jurors who convicted Floyd in October for killing Cheryl Ann Commesso were in the courtroom as Floyd, 59, read a long, defiant statement railing against the death penalty. As he did repeatedly during his September trial, Floyd denied dumping Commesso's body along Interstate 275. He claimed the FBI doctored photos taken before her death to frame him for the murder.

    "I can't speak anything when I'm dead, so I speak it now: I am not guilty," he declared.

    When the time came for Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Nancy Moate Ley to read the order sentencing him to death, she took a dim view of his history of such outbursts in court, calling his behavior "deplorable."

    Ley gave weight to Floyd's "joyless" upbringing in an orphanage and his history of personality disorders. But the judge said his criminal history and the gruesome circumstances surrounding Commesso's murder outweighed those factors.

    "Based on the aggravating factors found in this case, it was not surprising the jury found unanimously that (Floyd) should be put to death," Ley said.

    When she finished reading her ruling, the judge asked God to have mercy on Floyd's soul.

    "We don't need your mercy, judge," Floyd loudly retorted.

    The victim's family clasped hands and let out a sigh of relief as Ley handed down the sentence.

    "I'm just glad it's over with now, and that he got his due justice," John Commesso, the victim's father said.

    His wife, Ellen Commesso, echoed that sentiment.

    "I hope they don't take long to execute him," she said.

    But outside the courtroom, Floyd's defense attorney, Michael Schwartzberg, promised that would not be the case. Schwartzberg said he was not surprised by the judge's decision and plans to appeal.

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