Sentencing Phase Begins Monday For Donna Moonda

UPDATE: AKRON, Ohio (AP) - The mother of a woman who could become just the third female on federal death row burst into tears Monday when asked how she would feel about her daughter receiving such a punishment.

Dorothy Smouse testified in U.S. District Court on behalf of Donna Moonda, 48, who was convicted earlier this month of hiring her lover to kill her wealthy husband in a shooting on the Ohio Turnpike.

A jury will decide this week whether to sentence Moonda to life in prison or give her a death sentence.

Smouse held her composure on the stand, describing Moonda as a hardworking woman and loving daughter who took care of her mother, until defense attorney David Grant asked the 77-year-old about the death penalty with his final question.

"It would just break my heart," she said sobbing. "I don't know what I would do."

Moonda also cried as her mother left the witness stand shaken.

Grant told the jury that Moonda shouldn't get the death penalty because she suffers from a personality disorder and the triggerman got just 17½ years in prison.

Grant said justice would be served if her life is spared in the death of Dr. Gulam Moonda, 69.

Donna Moonda's one-time lover, Damian Bradford, 26, of Monaca, Pa., the triggerman and the prosecution's star witness, was sentenced last week by Judge David D. Dowd Jr., who is presiding at the sentencing phase of her trial.

Grant pointed out that Bradford could get out of prison before age 40 with good behavior.

Given Bradford's sentence, "It's simply not right and not just to impose the death penalty in this case," he told jurors.

Bradford admitted shooting the doctor in the side of the head on May 13, 2005, after his wife pulled over on the turnpike south of Cleveland, supposedly to let her husband take the wheel. He said Donna Moonda promised him half of her multimillion dollar inheritance.

Grant described her as a hardworking nurse-anesthetist who went into a depression after her father died and she then started abusing drugs.

She lost her job in early 2004 because of the drug problem and when she met Bradford in counseling she was suffering from "dependent personality disorder," Grant told the jury. He said such a person is easily manipulated and depends on others to make major decisions.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Kelley told the jury that Moonda encouraged Bradford to kill her husband and paid him to do so. "This was not a plan hatched in the heat of the moment," Kelley said.

Prosecutors called Dr. Faroq Moonda, a nephew of the victim, to testify about the man he called "Doctor Uncle," who influenced him more than anyone in his life.

He told jurors how his uncle emigrated to the United States to become a doctor and help his impoverished family in India.

"Now they are well-off, living in big mansions and driving in nice cars," Faroq Moonda said. His uncle influenced his decision to go to the United States to become a urologist, he said.

"My uncle was a very gentle human being, very generous ... to see the way that it happened doesn't make any sense," the nephew said of his death.

Faroq Moonda said his uncle was beloved by his patients, who spoke to him about his deceased uncle with tears in their eyes.