From the Pensacola News Journal:
One of three woman accused of beating, burning and leaving a teenager for dead in Ensley in March 2010 was sentenced to death on Friday.
Tina Brown, 42, was convicted of first-degree murder in June for killing Audreanna Zimmerman, 19.
Zimmerman, a mother of two, was repeatedly beaten and hit with a stun gun before she was taken to a wooded area, doused with gasoline and set on fire, according to testimony in Brown’s trial. She died 16 days later in a Mobile hospital.
Following the guilty verdict, the jury unanimously recommended that Brown be sentenced to death rather than life in prison, the only other option.
Circuit Judge Gary Bergosh said he agreed with the jury’s recommendation because Zimmerman’s death was “heinous, atrocious and cruel” and was done in a premeditated manner.
The families of Brown and Zimmerman were not in court when the sentence was imposed.
Brown has apologized since she was convicted. And prior to her sentencing, she again said she was sorry and wanted Zimmerman’s family “to have closure.”
“I hope today they get it,” she said in a trembling voice.
During the penalty phase of her trial, Brown’s family members and doctors testified that she has lived a hard life full of drugs and sexual abuse.
That life, as well as the cocaine she ingested the day she killed Zimmerman, influenced her state of mind and the decisions she made, according to testimony.
Bergosh said he gave weight to some of these arguments, but they did not outweigh the especially cruel nature of the killing in his decision to impose the death penalty.
Bridgette Jensen, the prosecutor handling the case, said the State Attorney’s Office does not take seeking the death penalty lightly, and she believes it was appropriate in this case.
Bergosh noted that death penalty cases are reviewed by the state Supreme Court.
John Jay Gontarek, Brown’s attorney, also pointed that out during comments made after the sentencing.
“These cases are difficult cases, and, of course, we’re sympathetic to the family of the victim,” Gontarek said.
Death penalty cases often take years to make it through the legal system. Twenty-nine people have been executed in Florida since 2000, according to state records.
The last woman to be executed in Florida was Aileen Wuornos in 2002. She killed six men in north and central Florida in 1989 and 1990.
Brown’s daughter, Britnee Miller, 19, is awaiting sentencing after pleading no contest to a first-degree murder charge in the same case.
Another co-defendant, Heather Lee, received a 25-year prison sentence from Bergosh after pleading no contest to a second-degree murder charge. Lee testified during Brown’s trial.