HOUSTON - A jury has sentenced a Houston cancer researcher to ten years in prison for poisoning her colleague and lover by spiking his coffee with a chemical found in antifreeze. She is not eligible for probation and must pay a $10,000 fine.
"Clearly we are disappointed with this verdict," said defense attorney Derek Hollingsworth. "She's very emotional. She's very sad. But she's also a tough woman."
Prosecutors say justice was served.
"Yes, she's someone who had a bright career and saved lives, but that doesn't mean she's different from any other person in society," said prosecutor Justin Keiter.
The jury began deliberating around 10 a.m. after closing arguments Monday morning in the punishment phase of the trial of Dr. Ana Maria Gonzalez-Angulo. The world-renowned breast cancer doctor and the victim worked together at Houston's famed M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.
A jury convicted Gonzalez-Angulo on Friday of aggravated assault for poisoning Dr. George Blumenschein with ethylene glycol in 2013 after he spurned her in favor of his longtime girlfriend.
Blumenschein and his girlfriend left the courtroom without speaking to media, but through prosecutors said they were pleased the jury's decision.
"They were happy," said prosecutor Nathan Hennigan. "At least they can sleep easy for the next 10 years while she's incarcerated."
In their closing arguments, Gonzalez's attorney asked that the jury look at her entire life and not just this "one small slice of it."
He asked jurors to consider probation.
"She's not going to be a doctor again but she may be able to be a researcher so she can sit in a prison cell and be a ward of the state," said Hollingsworth. "Probation allows her to try and get counseling and become a better person."
The prosecution asked for a minimum of 30 years in prison.
"You can't fix evil," said Prosecutor Justin Keiter. "You can't fix someone who's been cold and calculating."
Dr. Gonzalez's cancer patients were in the courtroom when the sentence was read aloud. They were shocked and heartbroken.
"It's a loss for society, because she did so much good for everyone," said cancer survivor Silvia Buchara. "It was heartbreaking for me to see her in custody. She doesn't deserve to be there."
Gonzalez could have faced up to life in prison. She will be eligible for parole after 5 years. The defense says they plan to file an appeal.