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Life or death? Jury to recommend punishment for South Miami teen’s killer

Now a convicted killer, Joel Lebron will learn Friday whether jurors think he should die for the gruesome kidnapping, rape and execution of a popular South Miami High teen.

Closing arguments are scheduled for Friday morning in the penalty phase of the trial of Lebron, who last week was convicted of the slaying of Ana Maria Angel in April 2002. While Miami-Dade Judge William Thomas will impose the sentence, the jury will recommend either life in prison or a death sentence for Lebron. Proceedings originally had been expected to conclude as early as Thursday.

Lebron, 34, was one of five Orlando men who kidnapped Angel and her boyfriend as the couple finished a South Beach moonlight stroll. After robbing them, the men gang-raped Angel in the back of their truck, then slit her boyfriend’s throat, leaving him for dead alongside Interstate 95 in Broward County.

Lebron shot Angel in the back of the head as she begged for her life, her hands clasped in prayer.

As for Lebron, his defense insists he should be spared because of his tumultuous upbringing and a childhood car crash that left him with an abnormal brain.