LARGO — For five days, Marco Antonio Parilla, Jr. has slouched next to his defense attorneys, his head bowed and his hands folded in front of him as police officers, doctors, medical examiners, his mother and other family members took the stand.
On Thursday, the defense called on their last witness.
Parilla rose from a chair and approached the front of the courtroom as bailiffs closely followed.
Defense attorney Bjorn Brunvand asked his client why he has been so reserved. His voice breaking, Parilla said: "I’m ashamed of what I’ve done."
His testimony was the defense’s last chance to elicit the jury’s mercy. Parilla pleaded guilty to killing Tarpon Springs officer Charles Kondek in 2014, so the 12 jurors will decide if the 27-year-old Tampa man will spend the rest of his life in prison or be sentenced to death.
With his client on the stand, Brunvand played two videos for the jury. The first was footage of Parilla being escorted by deputies into the Pinellas County jail after his arrest. A TV reporter asked if he had anything to say.
"I apologize to the family," Parilla says in the video. "That was not my intention."
The second video was a message Parilla recorded for his two sons.
"It’s kind of hard because you guys are so young," he says in the video. "I want you guys to know that I love you and sometimes it’s just... you’re faced with things that you just don’t understand."
"Just please, please, please don’t hate me," the video continued. "That’s all I ask."
In the courtroom, Parilla looked at Kondek’s family. He apologized to Kondek’s wife, Teresa, and their adult children.
"I know that I will carry this burden with me forever," he told them.
He also spoke to Kondek’s father. Sitting in the second row, Charles Kondek Sr. fidgeted and shook his head. Loved ones embraced him as he heard Parilla’s words.
"I’m sorry for taking your son away," he told him. "I never meant to… it wasn’t supposed to be this way."
But Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett was not swayed by Parilla’s apologies. He reminded him of the moments leading up to Kondek’s murder: how he was at a party showing other people his .40-caliber Glock, how he went to the Glen’s Eureka apartments in Tarpon Springs to confront a roommate with that gun, how he shot at Kondek as the officer responded to a noise complaint at the building, how he got in a Hyundai and ran over Kondek’s body.
"You fired at him seven times," Bartlett told him. "You weren’t too worried about what happened to anybody else. It was just about what happened to Marco Parilla, but you got caught."
"You don’t want to die, do you?" he continued. "You’re not going to tell (the jury) to kill you. You’re going to tell them whatever you’ve got to tell them to get a life recommendation against death."
"Aren’t you?" Bartlett pressed him.
"Yes," Parilla said.
The sentencing resumes Friday.