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Central Florida Jury Recommends Death for First-Degree Murder from 1991

After a week-long resentencing hearing, a Volusia County jury voted 12-0 in favor of the death penalty for defendant James Guzman for the brutal murder and robbery of a Virginia businessman he chauffeured.

Guzman, now 59, has previously been found guilty three different times for using a sword to kill the victim in Daytona Beach on August 10, 1991. The defendant then stole money and a diamond ring from him, which he sold for crack cocaine and cash.

The first two convictions were overturned on appeal and were sent back for new trials. The most recent conviction of the defendant for the crime was in 2016. At that time, a jury voted in favor of the death penalty for Guzman in an 11-1 decision, but that sentence was nullified the following year after Florida courts began requiring unanimous jury recommendations in death penalty cases.

However, in April 2023, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill authorizing a new non-unanimous sentencing standard of 8-4 in capital cases. This new law was utilized for this resentencing.

Although the Central Florida jury makes this recommendation, the final sentencing decision will be up to the judge. The Honorable Dawn Nichols will pronounce sentence after another hearing at a later date.

“The jury spoke loudly with a 12-0 death recommendation,” State Attorney R.J. Larizza said about the case. “We are one step closer to reaching a final disposition in a case that has eluded justice for too long.”

Assistant State Attorney Andrew Urbanak successfully argued for the death penalty for the state.

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