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Florida Supreme Court upholds death sentence for Waffle House murders

Gerhard Hojan was sentenced to death for killing two Waffle House employees in Davie, Fla. File Photo courtesy of the Florida Department of Corrections
Gerhard Hojan was sentenced to death for killing two Waffle House employees in Davie, Fla. File Photo courtesy of the Florida Department of Corrections

Dec. 3 (UPI) -- The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the death sentence for a man convicted of killing two Waffle House employees 18 years ago.

Gerhard Hojan, 45, was sentenced to death in 2003 for the murders of Christina De La Rosa and Willy Absolu. He was also convicted of attempted murder for shooting a third employee at the Davie, Fla., restaurant, Barbara Nunn.

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Prosecutors said Hojan and accomplice Jimmy Mickel held the three employees in the restaurant's freezer so they could steal cash in 2002. Hojan ordered the three employees to turn around and kneel, at which point he shot each.

Nunn survived a gunshot wound to the head and identified the two men, who had regularly eaten at the restaurant and knew the employees.

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Hojan confessed to the murders after his arrest.

The state's highest court declined to change Hojan's punishment as part of a re-sentencing hearing. Defense lawyers challenged the sentence, saying the trial court "abused its discretion" by not allowing Hojan's lawyers to pose a hypothetical question about the death penalty to jurors.

The Florida Supreme Court said it didn't find that the trial court improperly limited the defense team's questioning.

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"Hojan does not allege that his jury was partial, and he has not demonstrated that the trial court abused its discretion by prohibiting adequate questioning on the topic that was the subject of defense counsel's proposed hypothetical," the ruling said.

"To the contrary, the record shows that the trial court permitted an alternate inquiry by defense counsel that was sufficient to allow counsel to assess any juror bias that would affect the jurors' ability to impartially decide the case based upon the evidence presented at trial and the law."

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