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Jury selection begin in murder retrial

Posted on May 11, 2010 3:00 AM EST

A jury trial is set to begin this week on a 1992 murder and aggravated child abuse case. Back in 1992, a local woman was tried and convicted for the fatal beating of her three year-old son. Anna Maria Cardona was accused of beating her child to death with a baseball bat. After she was convicted, she was sentenced to the death penalty. First degree murder is a capital offense with is punishable by the death penalty or life in prison. Aggravated child abuse is a second degree felony punishable up to 15 years in prison. After her conviction, the public defender's office filed an appeal with the 3rd District Court of Appeal. The appellate criminal lawyer representing Cardona eventually appeared before the Supreme Court of Florida.

The post-conviction relief attorney argued that prosecutors from the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office withheld intentionally or inadvertently exculpatory evidence ("Brady Material") that would have been favorable to the defendant in trial. The Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors should have revealed to her defense attorney interviews that were conducted by law enforcement of the main witness for the State of Florida. The pre-trial statements provided by the witness apparently contradicted her testimony at trial.

The case garnered a lot of attention and the victim was dubbed "Baby Lollipops" because of the design on his T-shirt when he was discovered. The crime gathered media attention due to the age of the child and the heinous nature of the crime. The 3 year-old child was found in the bushes on Miami Beach. The scarred body was discovered by a passerby. The medical examiner testified that the victim died as a result of blunt trauma to the head. The medical examiner also discovered bite marks on the body and other indications that the child had been tortured.

Along with Cardona, the State of Florida also charged Olivia Gonzalez-Mendoza with first degree murder and aggravated child abuse. In order to avoid a possible death sentence, Gonzalez-Mendoza entered a guilty plea to second degree murder and aggravated child abuse. In exchange for her testimony, she received a 40 year prison sentence and avoided a death sentence. She eventually served 15 years of the 40 year sentence and was released from state prison on January 1, 2008.

First degree murder is a capital offense. A capital offense simply means that the case carries either an automatic life sentence or death sentence in the event of a conviction. Capital cases according to law must be bifurcated. The first part of the case is used to determine the guilt or innocence of the defendant. If the jury convicts a defendant, the case moves on to the sentencing phase. The same jury that heard the evidentiary portion of the case will be summoned for the sentencing phase. If the original jury cannot be gathered, the trial judge can summon a new jury for the sentencing phase. After evidence is presented at the hearing, the jury must determine whether (1) sufficient aggravating factors exist as codified under the sentencing guidelines, (2) whether sufficient mitigating factors outweigh aggravating circumstances, and (3) based on those considerations, determine whether a life sentence of the death penalty is granted. Of course, the decision made by the court and the jury can be appealed to higher courts in the State of Florida.

Jury Selection Tuesday In "Baby Lollipops" Re-trial, CBS4.com, May 11, 2010.
Categories: Violent Crimes