TAMPA, Fla. (FOX 13) - Convicted killer Lolita Barthel has a chance to get out of prison someday and she doesn’t want anyone getting in the way of that, including the victim’s family.
Barthel was 17 when she shot and killed homeowner Richard Menendez during a home invasion robbery.
A jury convicted her and sentenced her to life in prison, but the U.S. Supreme Court said that was unconstitutional and ruled juvenile inmates should have a right at the possibility of parole.
But now her defense attorney, Deborah Goin, was doing something that had never been done before. She was fighting to keep the victim’s family from giving persuasive impact statements during Barthel's sentencing.
"It’s the kind of testimony that maybe can sway decision-makers, so I think that’s why there is such caution in this area," said Goin.
But prosecutor Travis Coy say victims’ family members have a right to plead for stiffer sentences during impact statements -- a right that he says should be protected.
"For us to get into a situation where we are actually limiting what victims can say -- in terms of their thought and their desires, in terms of how a case should be resolved -- is negatively impacting our constitutional rights," said Coy.
In fact, Marcy's law, which was just passed by Florida voters, gives crime victims and their families more protections in the justice system.
"Victims’ rights were not decreased. Victims’ right were actually increased as a result of the passage of that particular amendment," argued Coy.
Hillsborough Circuit Judge Christopher Sabella agreed. "Victims do have rights and I will let Ms. Menendez and any other member of the victim’s family speak regarding what they would like to see in court.”
Barthel's sentencing is scheduled for later this month.