Wrong verdict read in court; jury recommends life in prison for cop-killer

- Just minutes after being sentenced to death, an admitted cop-killer learned there'd been a mistake: Jurors had actually meant to recommend life in prison for him.

The unbelievable scene played out in a Clearwater courtroom Friday evening.  After several hours of deliberations, the jury had arrived at a decision about the fate of Marco Parilla, who murdered Tarpon Springs police officer Charles Kondek back in 2014. 

Parilla admitted running over and then shooting Officer Kondek over a noise complaint because he didn’t want to go back to prison. He was on parole at the time of the killing. 

Parilla, 27, had pleaded guilty in hopes of avoiding the death penalty, which requires a unanimous jury decision.  He took the stand himself Thursday, tearfully asking for life in prison. He shared stories of abuse from his childhood.

His attorneys also tried to play on jurors' sympathies, saying drug use and brain damage from a physically abusive childhood affected his decision-making the day Kondek died.

Initially, it appeared those efforts had failed.  When the verdict -- "death" -- was read, the courtroom gallery of Kondek's family members and fellow officers erupted in cheers and applause. But there was almost immediate confusion.

Just moments later, the jury was brought back in and the judge polled each person individually. Two of the 12 jurors confirmed that they settled on a sentence of life in prison, but there was some sort of error with the form.  The exact nature of the error was not immediately clear.

With that confirmed, the judge allowed victim impact statements to get underway before the formal sentencing could wrap up.

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