A Florida double murderer with the word "killer" writer written on his own teeth appeared in court on Monday and ended up punching his own attorney and had to be wrestled to the ground. Joseph Zieler, 61, was given the death penalty on Monday in the rape and suffocation deaths of 11-year-old Robin Cornell and her babysitter, 32-year-old Lisa Story.
Zieler gestured for his lawyer, Kevin Shirley, to approach him after being brought into court in handcuffs for a pre-sentencing hearing regarding the killings of an 11-year-old girl and her babysitter. However, he soon ended up punching him inside the courtroom and was then wrestled to the ground by security.
Courtroom footage shows that as Shirley leaned in to talk to Zieler, who was later sentenced to death, the double murderer swiftly struck the lawyer in the face with a forceful elbow blow, causing him to spin around.
Three court officers quickly tackled Zieler, who seemed to have the word 'killer' engraved on his teeth and subdued him to the floor before promptly removing him from the courtroom.
Following the elbow blow, Judge Robert Branning of Lee Circuit asked Shirley if he was okay, to which the lawyer replied that he had endured more forceful blows in the past.
The incident occurred as Zieler, who remained handcuffed, seemed to be attempting to discreetly convey a message to his longstanding defense attorney.
"It seemed like he didn't want our conversation to be picked up by the microphones. So he waved me down and I bent over, and he struck me," Shirley told Fox 4.
Branning kept the convicted murderer aside outside the courtroom for a few minutes to ensure the well-being of Shirley following the impact.
Jan Cornell, the mother of the 11-year-old girl who was killed by Zieler, was present in court on Monday and witnessed the incident, expressing her shock and astonishment.
Upon being brought back into the courtroom, Zieler allegedly snarled at the judge and onlookers, exposing the word 'killer' inscribed on his teeth.
Despite the unsettling message displayed on his teeth, Zieler declined to have any relatives speak on his behalf, maintaining his innocence regarding the crimes.
"I have nothing to do with this," he said. "I maintain my innocence."
Ruthless and Aggressive Even Now
Judge Branning denied a motion Zieler had filed for a new trial and chose not to overturn his conviction. Several hours later, Zieler received his sentence of death from the judge inside the courtroom.
Zieler, from North Fort Myers, carried out the attack in 1990 by illicitly entering a condominium where he found 11-year-old Robin Cornell and babysitter Lisa Story, aged 32.
The child's mother had gone to her boyfriend's home that night and returned the next day to her Cape Coral apartment only to find her daughter and Story dead.
According to prosecutors, both victims had been subjected to sexual assault, physical abuse, and suffocation. The case remained unsolved for over two decades until new DNA evidence emerged in 2016, linking Zieler to the crime.
He was already in custody for assaulting his stepson when he faced charges for the double killing.
Families who had been seeking justice ever since they were found inside a Cape Coral apartment more than 30 years ago now have closure thanks to the sentencing.