ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) - A mistake made in a Pinellas County courtroom has a convict’s attorney speaking out over how verdicts are handed down.
Marco Parilla, who shot and killed Tarpon Springs police officer Charles Kondek, was read an incorrect death sentence Friday evening. Minutes later, the mistake was fixed to life in prison after jurors realized that they’d marked the wrong box on a form.
Ten jurors wanted a death sentence; two wanted life in prison verdict. Florida law says for someone to get death all jurors have to agree.
Parilla's attorney says, fortunately, the mistake was caught or his client would be sitting on death row.
"Maybe there's some confusion about the meaning of unanimous,” Bjorn Brunvand said. “I don't know, the instructions are clear -- if it's not unanimous, it's a life sentence."
In October, Parilla pleaded guilty to shooting and killing Officer Kondek just a few days before Christmas in 2014. Kodek was investigating a noise complaint at the time and Parilla, a felon out on parole, told deputies he was afraid of going back to prison.
Kondek's family couldn't be reached Monday. His widow Theresa said in court she was upset with a life verdict and wanted her husband’s killer to die.
Parilla’s attorney says having the wrong verdict is embarrassing, but especially hard on both families in a death penalty case.
"In light of what happened in this case, we should probably make them write down the number of votes, Brunvand said. “Regardless of the verdict, so there's no misunderstanding.”
None of the jurors involved wanted to comment.