Jury recommends death sentence for convicted murderer

Joel Lebron convicted of killing Ana Maria Angel in 2002

MIAMI – The jury recommended the death penalty for Joel Lebron, who was convicted last week in the 2002 kidnap, rape, and murder of Ana Maria Angel.

Last week, the same jury found Lebron guilty of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, kidnapping, armed robbery, sexual battery and sexual battery with a firearm.

Jurors deliberated for about two hours on Friday. Jurors voted 9-3 for the death penalty.

Magarita Osorio, Angel's mother, said death would equal justice.

"It's the only thing I wanted for justice," Osorio told Local 10's Glenna Milberg in Spanish.

"I don't think an entire person's lifetime should be judged entirely on one and a half hours," said Jeffrey Fink, Lebron's attorney.

Closing arguments had started earlier in the day.

"There's nothing wrong with this man," said prosecutor Reid Rubin. "This man knew what he was doing. He knew how he was doing it. He enjoyed it. He enjoyed it so much he had an orgasm."

State law outlines aggravators that make the death penalty apply and prosecutors focused on several of them: previous convictions; committing other crimes; avoiding arrest by killing Ana, who could identify him; robbing her for financial gain; and the heinous, atrocious, cruel crimes that were cold, calculated, premeditated.

"This woman was tormented and humiliated," said Rubin. "He began to fire his gun while she pleaded for her life... Did he enjoy it? He said he felt like a king."

Since Wednesday, the defense had been presenting mitigating factors to the jury, hoping they would consider any effects on Lebron from a childhood in a poor, crime-ridden neighborhood, and brain injuries suffered in a childhood car crash.

"Nothing that the state attorney just told you compels you in any way, shape, or form to recommend the death penalty," Rafael Rodriguez, Lebron's attorney, said during closing arguments. "By your verdict, you have guaranteed that Joel Lebron will stay in prison for the rest of his life."

Jurors left without commenting on the verdict. Some were crying as they walked to their cars.

"There may have been some things they got in the guilt phase," said Fink. "Maybe they didn't accept everything from the state hook, line, and sinker."

According to investigators, Angel was 18-years-old in the spring of 2002 when she was out celebrating an anniversary with Nelson Portobanco, her boyfriend at the time, on South Beach when five people kidnapped them and forced them into their truck at gunpoint.

As they rode north to Orlando where the defendants came from, Angel was repeatedly raped and Nelson was beaten, said prosecutors. Police said Portobanco was eventually thrown out of the truck along I-95 and left for dead.

The five are accused of killing Angel execution-style at the side of I-95 near Boca Raton to keep her from identifying them. Police said Lebron, now 33, was the gunman.

Prior to Lebron's conviction, three of the five defendants had already been convicted. Two were sentenced to life in prison; one is awaiting a second sentencing hearing because his death penalty sentence was overturned.

A Spencer hearing, where defense attorneys will present more mitigating evidence to the judge without the jury present, is scheduled for November 9th.