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Judge Denies Bond For 75-Year-Old Convicted in ‘Mercy Killing’

May 10, 1985

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) _ A 75-year-old man convicted of first-degree murder in what he said was the mercy killing of his terminally ill wife must remain in jail while he appeals, a judge ruled Friday.

Circuit Judge Thomas Coker Jr. denied a defense request for bond pending appeal for Roswell Gilbert, who was found guilty Thursday after a four-day trial. He also rejected a request for a new trial.

Gilbert, a retired engineer, was found guilty by a 10-woman, two-man jury of murder in the March 4 shooting death of his wife Emily, 73. He was sentenced to life in prison, which in Florida means 25 years in prison before becoming eligible for parole.

Witnesses testified that Mrs. Gilbert, his wife of 52 years, suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, a degenerative brain condition, and osteoporosis, a painful bone disintegration and had begged to die.

Defense attorney Harry Gulkin said Friday that he will appeal to the state’s 4th District Court of Appeal. He said the defense team is also considering asking Gov. Bob Graham to grant clemency.

Gulkin said the appeal would be based on disputes over jury instructions, the use of color photographs from Mrs. Gilbert’s autopsy, and the limit on testimony by a psychologist.

Prosecutor Kelly Hancock argued the killing was cold-blooded and premeditated. He told jurors to leave sympathy out of their decision.

″We had no choice,″ said juror Susan Mason. ″The law does not allow for sympathy.″

Said forewoman Sylvia Firestone, ″It was very difficult and very draining.″

Juror Rosalyn Brodsky, who said her father suffers from Alzheimer’s, asked Coker after the verdict if the panel could recommend leniency, even though she knew the answer would be no.

″We all knew it was 25 years. That was the law,″ she said. ″That doesn’t mean we agree with the law.″

At first a holdout for a lesser conviction of manslaughter, Ms. Brodsky said she later believed the correct verdict was first-degree murder since the shooting was premeditated.

″We were very loath to put first-degree on (the verdict form) because it was 25 years, and he was under a hardship there. But then again, we didn’t want anyone with a problem with someone at home sick to kill somebody,″ said the retired teacher.

Prosecutor Hancock chose not to seek the death penalty in the case, but Gilbert said life in prison is a death sentence for him.

″Is this justice?″ he had asked Thursday as he was led out of the courtroom. ″What the hell is left? You think I’m gonna live over 100? It’s the end of my life.″

Judge Coker told the Fort Lauderdale News and Sun-Sentinel that the case wasn’t easy for him, but added that the jury followed the law.

″The law prohibits the type of act Mr. Gilbert performed,″ he said. ″If there’s going to be a verdict other than what was returned ..., the law would have to be changed.

″Yes, it was a difficult case for me,″ Coker said. ″I have a wife, children. I have sympathies. But I am sworn to follow the law.″

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