Miami A jury decided Wednesday that a convicted sex offender should get the death penalty for the kidnapping, rape and murder of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford, who was buried alive in trash bags just yards from her home.
The jury, on a 10-2 vote, brushed aside pleas for mercy and a life sentence from defense lawyers based on claims that John Evander Couey, 48, is mentally retarded and suffers from chronic mental illness. Jurors deliberated for about one hour.
The final decision on Couey's fate will be made in several weeks by Circuit Judge Richard Howard, who is not bound by the jury's recommendation but is required to give it "great weight."
The Lunsford family showed no emotion when the decision was read, nor did Couey.
Couey was convicted last week of taking Jessica in February 2005 from her bedroom to his trailer about 150 yards away, where he raped and killed her. Despite an intensive search, the third-grader's body wasn't found until about three weeks after she disappeared - in a grave outside Couey's home.