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Markeith Loyd's defense works to persuade judge to reject jury's death sentence recommendation

Loyd was recently convicted of the 2017 killing of Orlando police officer Lt. Debra Clayton. A jury then recommended the death penalty.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Markeith Loyd's defense team tried Friday to persuade a judge to reject a jury's death sentence recommendation for the 2017 murder of an Orlando police officer. 

But, only time will tell what the judge will ultimately decide.

In November, a jury found Loyd guilty of the first-degree murder of Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton. Then, in December, the jurors unanimously recommended the death penalty

The judge has the option to listen or to disregard the jury's recommendation and instead sentence Loyd to life in prison.

Loyd is already serving a life sentence after being previously convicted in 2019 for the 2016 murder of his pregnant ex-girlfriend, Sade Dixon. Lt. Clayton was trying to arrest him for that crime when Loyd shot and killed her outside a Walmart in 2017.

When the jury previously announced its recommendation, CBS affiliate WKMG reported Loyd said, "I'm ready to get sentenced today." 

His verbal declaration originally meant he would waive his right to a Spencer hearing, the opportunity for his lawyers to give more evidence to the judge before the sentence is entered. WKMG reports he later changed his mind, leading to the hearing that wrapped up Friday afternoon.

Spencer hearings are relatively new in Florida courts and came about following the state's supreme court ruling in a 1993 case, according to the Online Paralegal Degree Center

These hearings basically give defendants the opportunity to give additional evidence to change the "penalties imposed by sentencing." In Loyd's case, his defense team hopes the hearing will convince the judge to spare his life.

Witnesses for both sides testified during Friday's hearing. On the defense side, both Loyd and his sister made remarks – in addition to a psychologist who testified that Loyd suffered from delusions, according to WKMG

Loyd said he "never meant to kill Lt. Clayton."

On the prosecution's side, victim impact statements were read by multiple relatives of Lt. Clayton.

"She was a super mom," Ashley Thomas, Clayton’s sister, reportedly told the courtroom. "She was a super human and she didn't deserve this."

The hearing concluded shortly before 3 p.m. Friday.

The attorneys in the case will have until 5 p.m. on Feb. 1 to turn in their sentencing memorandums for the judge to consider when weighing the sentence.

Loyd is scheduled to be sentenced at 9:30 a.m. on March 3.

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