MIAMI -- The news from Courtroom 4-6 went out live yesterday at 9:25 a.m.:
Ana Cardona, mother and murderer of "Baby Lollipops," must die.
The beating death of 3-year-old Lazaro Figueroa, said Circuit Judge David L. Tobin, and "the long period of time over which this baby was subject to torture, abuse, pain and suffering separates this crime from all other crimes seen in the Dade County Courthouse within the memory of anyone . . . in this building."
Yet even as she was being hustled out the door, Cardona tried to paint herself as a victim. In early statements to police, through occasional outbursts during trial and in interviews with the press, Cardona cast blame every which way but inward:
* On Olivia Gonzalez, the former lover who had helped beat the boy and dump his body in Miami Beach -- and who testified against Cardona in return for a 40-year sentence for second-degree murder.
* On cocaine, the drug that Cardona said messed up her mind and kept her from coming to Lazaro's defense against Gonzalez.
* And on the jury, which had received this blast from the defendant after their guilty verdict last week: "You don't know what I've gone through in my life. You don't know anything about me."
By midmorning yesterday, it didn't matter any more. After weighing factors that seemed to argue for a sentence of life behind bars -- the "severe emotional impact" that the death of Lazaro's father had had on Cardona; her troubled upbringing in Cuba -- Judge Tobin could not ignore the one aggravating circumstance prosecutors had presented.
"To inflict months and months of unspeakable torture and enormous abuse on a child because it is unwanted," he said, "can only be categorized by this court as the most heinous, atrocious or cruel of all crimes."
Lazaro's murder had mesmerized the public with its sheer brutality ever since his body was discovered 17 months ago beneath some hedges outside a home on North Bay Road. Evidence later showed the boy had been beaten, starved, bound and gagged in the months before his death. No clear motive was ever revealed. A T-shirt with a candy motif prompted his nickname.
Judge Tobin's ruling makes Cardona the fifth woman on Florida's Death Row and the first sent there for killing her own child.
"I'm very grateful for the jury's verdict and the judge's ruling today," said prosecutor Cathy Vogel. "I went to the scene, and this case has haunted me since Nov. 2, 1990."
But defense attorney Andy Kassier told reporters that sending Cardona to her death is a mistake.
"As this case unfolded," he said, "it became clear that Ana Cardona was going to be held up to our community as a monster -- that the ultimate goal of this prosecution was to put a mother in the electric chair. The fact that her co-defendant might be the actual killer -- a fact eventually admitted to in open court by that co-defendant -- did not matter."