Nathan Ramirez was convicted Thursday in the 1995 murder of Mildred Boroski. His attorney says he will appeal Friday's recommendation.
NEW PORT RICHEY - Nathan Ramirez cried as they wheeled his mother out of the courtroom. Linda Burgess told the jury she loved him unconditionally, that his life had value Friday morning. Burgess, a burn victim, sat in a wheelchair, breathing with the help of an oxygen tank.
As she left, she gave him a slight wave. Then the tears started.
Burgess was not there in the afternoon when the jury recommended the death penalty to an unemotional Ramirez.
"He was kind of expecting it," said his attorney Jack Bridges. "And he understands we'll appeal to the (state) Supreme Court directly."
The jury took 45 minutes to recommend by a vote of 10-2 the death penalty for Ramirez. Thursday, the group took 22 minutes to decide his guilt in the 1995 murder of 71-year-old Mildred Boroski.
Ramirez and his partner Johnathan Grimshaw, then 17 and 18, respectively, broke into Boroski's home on March 10, 1995. They killed her dog with a crowbar, looted the house and raped Boroski before driving her to a nearby field in her car and shooting her twice in the head.
A jury found Ramirez guilty in 1996 and recommended the death penalty. That verdict was overturned by the state Supreme Court in 1999. It said the Pasco sheriff's deputies had read him his rights too far into his confession.
Grimshaw received life without parole for his part in the crime. But Ramirez's defense could not persuade the jury that he should receive the same sentence.
Ramirez was convicted of felony murder. The prosecution never proved whether Ramirez or Grimshaw pulled the trigger and raped Boroski, just that Ramirez was there, said his attorney Keith Hammond.
If given a life sentence, Hammond argued that Ramirez's life in prison would be a "black hole."
"He'll be in a prison on the end of some dusty road, swallowed up in the system in some small room," he said. But alive, he could still bring some happiness to Burgess, his father, Augustine Ramirez, and his stepmother, Joel Christine Ramirez. They all testified on his behalf, saying they loved him.
Assistant State Attorney Michael Halkitis said Ramirez's loving family should not be a mitigating factor in deciding whether to give him the death penalty. He came from good parents and a good home, went to good schools and was offered a good education.
"You know what's mitigating? That the parents have to come here and go through this," Halkitis said.
Maybe they wouldn't have testified had they been inside Boroski's home on the night of her killing. "They didn't see Mr. Hyde. They didn't sit in the living room and watch what happened to Mrs. Boroski."
And it's no excuse if Ramirez followed Grimshaw's lead, Halkitis said. He had the power of free will. He's not a processional caterpillar, programmed by biology to follow the animal walking in front of it, Halkitis said.
After the jury recommended the death penalty, Circuit Judge Daniel Diskey said that he will hold a hearing next month to decide the sentence.
Bridges said the defense will appeal, citing pretrial publicity and one witness's mention of retrial.