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7 years cut from 'TV intoxication' murderer's term

The Florida Parole Commission votes to set Ronny Zamora's release date in 2005.

©Associated Press
February 20, 2003

TALLAHASSEE -- A Miami man convicted at age 15 of fatally shooting an elderly neighbor when his "television intoxication" defense failed, saw his sentence reduced by seven years Wednesday.

The Florida Parole Commission voted unanimously to set Ronny Zamora's release for June 7, 2005.

Zamora was sentenced to life for killing his 83-year-old neighbor Elinor Haggart in 1977 at her Miami Beach home during a robbery. Zamora and his accomplice stole $400 and the woman's car. Zamora also was sentenced to 25 years each for burglary assault and robbery with a firearm.

Zamora, now 40, was eligible for release in November after serving the mandatory 25-year portion of his life sentence. In February 2001, the commission set a release date of June 7, 2012.

Zamora's brother Manny said he was "thrilled" by the parole board's decision and its promise to review the case again in November.

"2012 -- 2005. That's seven years, and we're very pleased with that," Manny Zamora said. "Ronny had to pay dearly for what he did. He did commit a very serious crime. Where we're at now is the light's at the end of the tunnel. We can finally see the light."

James Haggart, the victim's grandson, said Zamora should remain in jail for life.

"That was the finding of the court at the time, and our belief is the sentence was life imprisonment and we would prefer that the sentence was carried out," he said. He and two other grandchildren are Haggart's surviving family.

Once released, Zamora will be deported to his native Costa Rica. Costa Rican President Abel Pacheco, a psychiatrist and former television commentator, interviewed Zamora after his arrest. Pacheco's niece, Costa Rican Consul General Roxana Pacheco, was among those who testified on Zamora's behalf before the commission two weeks ago.

"There are thousands of people around the world, both here in the country as well as Costa Rica, that are praying for Ronny's release," Manny Zamora told the commission. "He's got a family that's going to love him, a community around him that's going to love him, and I can tell you safely without a shadow of a doubt that he will have a life that will make a difference."

During Zamora's trial, defense attorney Ellis Rubin tried to show that Zamora was insane from watching violent television programming when he killed Haggart. He attempted to subpoena experts who had studied the effect of television on young minds. But trial Judge Paul Baker barred the testimony because it did not apply directly to Zamora's state of mind.

Prosecutors said Zamora's reason for shooting Haggart was simple: He didn't want to get caught.

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