BRADENTON -- Former Bradenton police Capt. Thomas Fleming was sentenced to life in prison Thursday after being found guilty of killing his wife.
Fleming, 69, was convicted Dec. 11 of second-degree murder with a firearm.
Claire Fleming was shot to death inside the couple's Bradenton home Oct. 1, 2012. Moments later, Fleming admitted to a neighbor and police he shot her. He freely admitted it in court, too.
"He is going to get 25 years by law," defense attorney Walter Smith said. "The reason we expedited it is to get him out of the jail and get him into a medical institution within the department of corrections right away."
The morning following his conviction, Fleming attempted suicide at the Manatee County jail.
He jumped about 15 feet from the second tier of the jail to the first-tier floor, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.
Fleming broke his hip in the fall, Smith said. He was released from the hospital last week and returned to jail.
"He will probably be in a wheelchair at the hearing," Smith said.
Smith filed a psychiatric report with the court detailing Fleming's struggles, he said. During the trial Smith tried to convince the jury it was a crime of passion in a failed attempt to reduce the charge to manslaughter, which carries a lighter sentence.
Fleming faces a minimum of 25 years in prison under Florida statute, and the judge has no authority to deviate from that. Life in prison is the maximum sentence for second-degree murder.
"Obviously, he has got to get the 25-year mandatory," prosecutor Art Brown said. "The family's position so far is that they want him to spend the rest of his life in prison."
Given Fleming's age, even the minimum sentence will likely mean life in prison. Brown still will seek a life sentence, he said.
Fleming's son, Shawn Fleming, indicated he wished to testify at Thursday's sentencing hearing, but Brown said he is unsure if he will.
Former Bradenton Herald Editorial Editor David Klement plans to testify on Fleming's behalf. Klement reported on Fleming when he was ousted from the Bradenton Police Department, he said.
A friend of Fleming's will also take the stand on his behalf, his attorney said.
"I just thought it would be nice for him to have someone speak on his behalf," Smith said.
Jessica De Leon, law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitternote>