Jury recommends death penalty for Brandon Bradley

Bradley photos 2.JPG

Published April 9, 2014 by Florida Today

Steve Pill lost half of himself when his wife was murdered. For about 31 years, he was married to Barbara Pill, a Brevard County Sheriff’s Deputy.

“When you get married, you take two and you make one,” he said.

Pill sat through most of the trial of Brandon Bradley, the man who was found guilty of killing Pill’s wife. Pill was in court Tuesday evening to watch the jury recommend that Bradley should be put to death.

“I’m glad the jury came back with what they came with,” Steve Pill said. “But again, it’s not vengeance we were looking for, it was justice.”

They delivered a 10-2 vote, meaning two jurors felt Bradley should get life in prison without parole instead. The jurors had to be unanimous to find Bradley guilty of the crime. While Florida only requires a majority vote to recommend a death penalty, every other state except Alabama requires a unanimous vote, according to Defense Attorney Kepler Funk, who has analyzed the case for FLORIDA TODAY. In 2011, State Senator Thad Altman (R- Melbourne) sponsored a bill that would have changed the law to require a unanimous vote for a death penalty recommendation, but that bill died in committee.

The jury’s recommendation represents the conclusion of their work. Bradley’s trial began on February 24 with about three weeks of jury selection. Then the chosen jurors watched about two weeks of witness testimony, delivering their guilty verdict on April 1. The penalty phase, in which the state and defense argue for and against the death penalty, happened Thursday, Friday and Tuesday.

In their closing argument during the penalty phase, the state told jurors Pill ordered Bradley to “get out of the car” 23 times during the traffic stop that ended with her shooting death. Among six factors they said supported a death sentence, the state reminded jurors Pill was a deputy on duty.

“That alone justifies the death penalty,” Assistant State Attorney Jim McMaster said.

Defense Attorney Randy Moore told jurors no matter what the state presented, they could always choose to recommend life in prison without parole.

“Mercy is always an option,” he said.

He described prison as a place where the strong and the smart prey on the weak.

“Look at Mr. Bradley, he’s not a big man. He’s not exceptionally strong, he’s not exceptionally bright…He is a small, brain-damaged man who will be thrown into this sewer with the worst of humanity. That will be his life if he gets a sentence of life without parole.”

The jury deliberated for about three hours when considering whether to recommend life or death. That’s about twice as long as they required to find him guilty of first-degree premeditated murder of a law enforcement officer, as well as three other crimes.

While deliberating, they asked several questions of the court. They reviewed the video of her shooting that was captured on the dash camera in her patrol car. They were concerned about being polled about how they voted — ultimately they were each asked if the total vote was correct, but not how they individually voted.

“You know, it is always tough to sit in those jurors’ chairs and make those decisions,” Sheriff Wayne Ivey said. “And I applaud the jury for returning the appropriate decision and taking us one step closer to the closure we all want in this case.”

Judge Morgan Reinman scheduled a “Spencer Hearing” for June 13 where both sides can present evidence to try to influence her decision. She scheduled a sentencing hearing for June 27, where she’ll deliver her final order. She can choose either a death penalty or life in prison without parole, but she must give the jury’s recommendation great weight.

After the jury recommended he should die, Bradley was lead out of the courtroom in handcuffs.

“Even with the verdict today,” Pill said, “It still doesn’t bring back what I lost. Barb was a big part of my life.”