Jury votes for death penalty for killer of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Jury votes for death penalty for killer of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford

MIAMI (AP) - 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." Couey, 48, 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 was found in a grave outside Couey's home, about three weeks after she disappeared.

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