WATCH: Convicted Murderer Hits Attorney in Face During Court Prior to Death Sentence

A convicted murderer displayed his obvious displeasure in a Florida courtroom on Monday, responding to his imminent death sentence by elbowing his attorney in the face.

Joseph Zieler, 61, of North Fort Myers, is facing death for the 1990 rapes and murders of 11-year-old Robin Cornell and her babysitter Lisa Story in Cape Coral — and Monday’s hearing was a chance for Zieler to appeal directly to Judge Robert Branning for a new trial or a reduced sentence after a jury recommended the deal penalty on Saturday. He was linked to the cold case in 2016, when he was arrested for a domestic violence incident and his DNA matched the evidence from the crime scene.

On Monday morning, Zieler entered the courtroom and signaled for a private conversation with his attorney Kevin Shirley. However, instead of speaking to his lawyer, the handcuffed double-murderer hit Shirley on the side of his head with his elbow.


When Judge Branning asked Shirley if he had been injured, Shirley, who was a former boxer, replied that he had endured much more severe blows in the past.

“It seemed like he didn’t want our conversation to be picked up by the microphones,” Shirley said. “So he waved me down and I bent over, and he struck me. The Bailiffs were extremely quick to respond and eliminated any future threat.”

“I had no idea he was going to do something like that. Obviously, he’s been planning on that. But, as he was going down, he said he was sorry he missed.”

The judge did not reverse Zieler’s conviction or order a new trial, but instead proceeded with the death penalty recommended by the jury.

“The court concludes that under the laws of the State of Florida, the defendant has forfeited his right to live,” Branning said.

The judge sentenced Zieler to death for each murder count, as well as life in prison for the other charges. He is the first person to receive a death sentence in Lee County since 2011.


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