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The man convicted in the 2012 murders of a Tampa doctor and his wife nearly got himself kicked out court Thursday after going on a rant as the sentencing phase of his case began.
Moments after jurors were seated, Julian Ospina Florez interrupted the proceedings, as he tried to address jurors to question their guilty verdict.
"I'm sorry your honor, I just want to let the jury know," Ospina Florez said, as Judge Samantha Ward immediately ordered the jury to be taken out. "I don't understand why the state let the innocent people go to prison and the criminals just go in and out from jail with no problem. And this is reserved for them -- just saying they are insane and go home. And the innocent people go to prison. I am not agree with that."
Judge Ward threatened to toss him out of the courtroom.
"Mr. Florez, that is completely inappropriate. You will not -- you will not -- address this jury, do you understand me?" she said. "You have the right to testify if you would like to in these proceedings just like we discussed last time. You may address the jury during your testimony, at no other time, or I will remove you from the courtroom and you can watch these proceedings from the holding cell."
Florez was convicted Tuesday of murdering Dr. Hector Rivera and his wife, Debra Rivera, in cold blood in January 2012 at their mansion in Avila, a north Tampa community. The defendant was the couple's driver.
Prosecutors said Florez was angry at Debra Rivera because he felt she was verbally abusive. Investigators said Florez called 911 after the murders, then pretended like he was also a victim and tried to convince them the real killer got away.
Once the jury was re-seated, testimony began. For the first time, family members and friends of the Riveras spoke about how their deaths have affected them and the community.
"The first holiday season without them was the hardest, but every year since, it doesn't seem to get any easier," said Brittney Cardillo, the couple's niece. "Those who knew them could always feel their love for one another and knew that they were rarely apart."
Prosecutors closed by calling to the stand the Riveras' son, also named Hector.
"I have tried to find words to tell you how their murders have impacted my life, but there are no adequate words to describe the pain, anger and despair that our family has felt from their lives being taken from us," he said.
As he read a prepared statement, he broke down in tears.
"He was my dad, my supporter, my mentor, my best man at my wedding and my best friend. I miss him every single day," he said. "This world is missing two amazing human beings. Those two beings were my mom and dad."
The defense called several witnesses, including Florez's mother, as they tried to him as having a rough childhood.
Testimony will continue Friday. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. Florez will spend a minimum of life in prison without parole.
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