There could be a new Florida death sentence soon, and what makes this one unusual is that the offender is a woman. Women on death row are definitely not the norm and apparently there are so many questions about them that they warrant their own section on the Florida Department of Corrections site. There are currently 4 women on Florida’s death row.
The woman facing the possibility of becoming the fifth is 41-year-old Tina Brown, who was convicted of first-degree murder in the March 2010 death of of 19-year-old Audreanna Zimmerman. Yesterday the jury unanimously recommended a death sentence, which is interesting when you consider that it only takes a majority vote of 7-5 for a recommendation of death. According to a story in the Pensacola News Journal, prosecutor Bridgette Jensen said the unanimous decision “says a lot about the nature of the crime itself.”
The final decision now goes to Circuit Judge Gary Bergosh. He has the final say in whether to agree with the jury’s recommendation or overrule it. However, it’s very unusual for a Florida judge to use their judicial override, so I think it’s safe to say Brown will soon be joining the other 402 inmates awaiting execution on Florida’s death row.
From the Pensacola News Journal:
A 12-member jury unanimously recommended Tuesday the execution of an Ensley woman convicted of murdering a teenager.
Tina Brown, 41, was convicted of first-degree murder Thursday in the March 2010 death of of 19-year-old Audreanna Zimmerman.
Brown, her daughter and a neighbor were arrested after beating the teen and repeatedly attacking Zimmerman with a stun gun before taking her to a wooded area, setting her on fire and leaving her for dead. She later died in the burn ward of a Mobile hospital.
As Circuit Judge Gary Bergosh read the jury’s recommendation, reached after about 90 minutes of deliberations, Brown barely flinched.
The final decision is up to Bergosh, who has not set a sentencing date. He will hold at least one more hearing for attorneys to present any additional evidence or arguments.
The courtroom, which was filled with Brown’s family members, as well as attorneys, court personnel and spectators, remained silent.
Brown, whose face had perked up when given the chance to visit with her family, remained emotionless as she was taken from the courtroom in handcuffs.
A death recommendation took only a 7-5 vote. Prosecutor Bridgette Jensen said the unanimous decision “says a lot about the nature of the crime itself.”
“We love her and are still praying for her,” said Deante Miller, Brown’s son, said after the decision.
In an attempt to persuade jurors to recommend a life sentence, Wilson spent most of her closing arguments detailing the horrific life her client has lived.
Brown’s upbringing was full of drugs and physical, sexual and emotional abuse by her father and other family members and partners. She has three children.
“Tina Brown is so much more than a person who committed this crime,” Wilson said. “She’s a human being.”
Wilson, who at times used photos of Brown when she was a child, asked jurors to put Zimmerman’s murder in the context of Brown’s life of abuse and drugs.
“We’re not asking you to find it justifiable. We’re just asking you to understand,” Wilson said.
Brown did not testify at the trial. There has been no explanation for the murder, beyond several theories about some sort of feud over a man or a previous altercation between Zimmerman and Brown’s family.
‘What is more evil?’
During her closing arguments, Jensen recalled the testimony of J.C. Coleman, Brown’s uncle.
“When Tina is not caught up in that mess, she is a beautiful person,” he testified.
“What is she when she is caught up in that mess?” Jensen said. “On March 24, ladies and gentlemen, a murderer.”
Jensen implored the jury to recall Zimmerman’s gruesome death and the planning that went into it.
“What is more evil than pouring gasoline on someone’s body and lighting them on fire?” she asked.
Finally, Jensen also asked the jury to consider aggravating factors, including the especially heinous and cruel nature of the crime.
“Tina Brown must be held accountable for her actions,” Jensen said. “The punishment should fit the crime.”
Britnee Miller, Brown’s 18-year-old daughter, and Heather Lee, 29, her neighbor, also face life sentences after pleading guilty to murder charges.
Jensen hopes Brown, Miller and Lee can be sentenced on the same day, so Zimmerman’s father, Sammy Rejino, can be present.
Rejino, who attended most of the trial, traveled home to Lubbock, Texas, on Monday afternoon.
Miller and Brown’s sentencing date is next month, but Jensen and other attorneys said they expect a delay.