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Jury recommends death penalty for Mark Sievers for the murder of his wife

A jury unanimously agreed at the Lee County courthouse on Tuesday evening that Mark Sievers should be sentenced to death for the 2015 murder of his wife, Dr. Teresa Sievers.

One of the reasons Judge Kyle gave the Mark Sievers plenty of time to consider testifying and directly asked the defendant the question was to prevent his lawyers from using that as an issue on appeal.

Peter Dennis, a criminal defense attorney, told WINK News Mark Sievers is still far away from dying for his crimes.

“There is first a direct appeal that goes automatically to the Supreme Court,” Dennis said. “They’re going to be looking at things that happened in the trial itself and their purpose is just to make sure that people who are sentenced to death all have an equal opportunity in the court.”

Mark Sievers’ attorneys will most likely appeal the decision. Dennis said they could include ineffective assistance of counsel, which means the council did not do a good enough job in the defense, or mental illnesses. The lawyers can also include things that may not have directly been brought up in the trial as “newly discovered evidence.”

A United States Justice Dept study found that in 2010, a death row inmate wanted an average of 15 years from sentencing to execution. The governor signs a “death warrant” once the appeals have been exhausted and shortly after that, Dennis told WINK, “usually the execution will take place.”

That leaves the next big question.

“It’s either the electric chair,” Dennis said, “which most people don’t elect or lethal injection.”

“It’s time for us to continue with our work”

It was a look of overwhelming emotion from Dr. Teresa Siever’s mother when the jury unanimously found Mark Sievers should be sentenced to death. The defendant, however, was emotionless.

Teresa Siever’s family said this is the justice they deserved.

“This man is a sociopath and he is where he belongs,” said Ann Lisa, the victim’s sister. “And I want to move forward with my life with these two beautiful children that my mother and I are raising.”

Lisa said she feels a great deal of compassion for Mark Sievers’ family, who spoke on his behalf on Tuesday.

Bonnie Sievers, the mother of the defendant, said he is her baby. “He’s my son. And I would always be there for him.”

Both families are losing a loved one, with a looming death sentence for Mark Sievers and painful memories for the family of the victim.

“My children have lost the mother,” Mary Ann Groves, the victim’s mother, said as tears streamed down her face, “they once knew because a big part of me died with her.”

Prosecutors said the case is not over.

“This has been about Teresa Sievers, who suffered a horrendous death,” said Cynthia Ross, who works at the State Attorney’s Office. “But it’s time for us to continue with our work.”

WATCH LIVE FROM THE COURTROOM

NOTE: During a court recess, you will see a state of Florida seal and audio may go out.


Tuesday morning, the jury heard some extremely personal and emotional statements and testimony from both Dr. Teresa Sievers’ family and Mark Sievers’ family.

The jury will use this to determine whether to recommend life in prison or death for Mark.

The State delivered an opening to the jury. Prosecutors said they will argue two aggravating factors, those being that Teresa’s murder was done for financial gain and in a calculated, premeditated nature.

In the defense’s penalty phase opening statement, Mark’s attorney notes he didn’t want to get to this point but said he respects the jury’s guilty verdict.


The first person called in the penalty phase against Mark is Teresa’s mother, Mary Ann Groves. She delivered an emotional victim impact statement to the jury.

She said the weekend Teresa was killed started as the happiest weekend of her life.

This extraordinary woman, my daughter Teresa, did extraordinary things. She gave of herself. She did more in her short life than most people do in 10 lifetimes.

Groves said she used to call her “my modern-day Mother Teresa.”

She talked about how Teresa’s murder robbed the Sievers’ daughters of some precious moments to come with their mother. Teresa’s brother and sister were watching intently. Mark was seen crying again.

“These two girls have been robbed of their remarkable mother, their home, their pets, their possessions, their family and friends. Teresa will not be able to love and guide them,” said Groves.

Groves ends with a very emotional statement, saying her family not only lost Teresa but a part of her as well. “My children have lost the mother they once knew, because a big part of me died with her on June 28th, 2015.”

In tears, Groves sits back in the gallery between Teresa’s brother and sister. The State then rested during the penalty phase.


Mark’s mother, Bonnie Sievers, was next to take the stand.

She began by describing Mark as a child. “Mark was fun to be with. He was curious, loving. He was kind as a child, he still is. As he grew older, he kind of developed a way of wanting to take care of people.”

She described her son as a “protector” who always wanted to take care of the underdog.

As her son sat at the defense table, found guilty of planning his wife’s murder, Mark’s mom said he always taught his two daughters about virtues and “what’s right and what’s wrong.”

The defense showed photos of Mark and Teresa at their wedding and of him with their two girls. They also showed letters written to Mark from his two girls while he was in jail. Mark’s mom chuckled remembering these moments fondly.

She said she’d continue to support her son if he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. She says she visited him in jail every week since he was arrested.


Next, Mark’s brother, Scott Sievers, took the stand. He’s in town from Missouri and this is the first time we’ve seen or heard from him this trial.

He started off by saying how Mark loved to spoil his nieces. He then described the sibling relationship between him, Mark and their two sisters. One of their sisters has passed away, the other couldn’t make it to Florida this week.

His brother described Mark as a very proud father and said he was always bragging about his daughters’ accomplishments. “He was a proud father; very loving father.”

The State asked him a few questions and then he was released.


The defense then called Connie Reiss, Mark’s step-sister, to the stand.

“Mark has always been a constant source of support in my life and in the lives of all his siblings. He is the glue often times that keeps our family together,” she said.

She described Mark as a “superhero father” saying, “His family was his universe and he was loving, affectionate, kind in so many different ways.”


After that brief moment, she was released and Mark’s stepmother, Jennie Weckelman, was called to the stand.

Weckelman said Mark’s dad, her husband, passed away from pancreatic cancer in 1992, just before Mark graduated from college. The defense showed pictures from Mark’s graduation day. He graduated with a degree in psychology.


One last question before the court took a break for lunch: Mark Sievers. Do you want to take the stand?

He said he wished to remain silent.

The court then took a break for lunch until 1:30 p.m.

The defense will rest in the penalty phase after court returns and then closings will begin.


WATCH THE FIRST HALF OF SENTENCING


Following recess, closing arguments began. Both the State and defense said they’d need about 30 minutes.

“In a little while you’re going to have to go back there and make the most difficult decision you’ve probably ever had to make,” said Assistant State Attorney Hamid Hunter.

He noted that some of the jurors may be exhausted, as they’ve been coming to the courthouse almost every weekday for the last month.

Hunter then listed the aggravating factors, or reasons, why Mark should be put to death for planning his wife’s murder, saying the murder was done for money and was “cold, calculated and premeditated.”

He then walked the jury through evidence presented during the trial.

Hunter said Mark’s lack of criminal history doesn’t outweigh the aggravating circumstances.

The State finished its closing arguments by reminding jurors of the murder motive: Mark asked his best friend to kill his wife, Teresa, so she couldn’t leave and take the kids. The State asked jurors to choose the death penalty and took some weight off the decision by saying, “We ask you to check a box.”

Next, Mark’s attorney, Michael Mummert, began closing arguments for the defense.

He began by saying that Wright said multiple times that it wasn’t about the money; it was about the children. He also pointed out that Wright testified that there wasn’t a set plan to kill Teresa.

With that, the defense wrapped up their closing arguments.

Now, we wait for a verdict. Jurors adjourned to the back where they will decide whether Mark Sievers lives or dies.

Just a few minutes after the jury left to deliberate, Judge Bruce Kyle received a note asking for more copies of the jury instruction. Several minutes later, they asked for transcripts of Wright’s testimony from both times he took the stand.

Judge Kyle told them they could not send back transcripts but could have the court reporter read it back to them, as was done in the Jimmy Rodgers trail.

The jury declined to hear the testimony at this time.

About an hour into deliberation, the gallery of courtroom 8A was still busy with may people including the prosecution team sitting inside.


CONTINUING COVERAGE

Reporter:Nicole Lauren
Taylor Petras
Morgan Rynor
Justin Kase
Writer:Briana Harvath
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