Convicted Florida killer Bessman Okafor sentenced to death

Convicted killer Bessman Okafor was sentenced to death Monday morning. Okafor was originally found guilty in 2012 of killing 19-year-old Alex Zaldivar. 

Zaldivar's father, Rafael, has been at the court's hearings since his son's death.

"I’ve been to maybe more than 200 hearings, seven trials," he said. "My job is to make sure that we put him back in a six by nine box."

In 2015, Okafor was sentenced to death in an 11-to-one vote, but that was overturned in 2016 when the Florida Supreme Court ruled that death sentences had to be unanimous by a jury. However, in 2020, the court reversed its decision, saying juries do not have to be unanimous. 


Then in 2023, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new law that only requires eight out of 12 jurors to approve a death sentence. 

In January 2024, a jury voted in favor of the death penalty, nine to three, during a re-sentencing trial, and Chief Judge Lisa T. Munyon accepted that recommendation. 

Monday’s sentencing comes after a case that has seen setbacks and do-overs over the years. Attorney Albert Yonfa, who isn’t connected with the case, said the delays and issues are well-known in the legal community. 

"This case has just been unique. It's been a lesson in legal maneuvering, and it's put Florida sort of in the spotlight of death penalty cases."

Attorneys for Okafor said they intend to appeal the sentence, which Yonfa said could stretch on for more than a decade.