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The defendant was Lawrence Singleton, found guilty of stabbing a woman in his Orient Park home.
Pruner, the prosecutor, guided her through a retelling of the ordeal. In the finale, he posed a standard inquiry: Did she see her attacker in the courtroom and could she point to him? From the witness stand, she raised the hooked end of a prosthetic arm and leveled it at Singleton. The stunning gesture helped secure a death sentence. It was the same understated style he has exhibited through 35 years as a prosecutor. Pruner has brought more than jury trials to a verdict.
His cases are some of the most tragic and notorious in local history. Pruner retires this week. Bald, bespectacled, with a salt-and-pepper mustache, Pruner looks more like an ant or a salesman than a lawyer. One longtime friend likened him to the Monopoly man. But he was extremely well-prepared.
Pruner, 63, was born in Topeka, Kan. He came to Tampa, passed the Florida Bar, and began working as an assistant state attorney in Hillsborough County on Sept. Pruner has never sought the limelight he declined a of interview requests for this story but he has figured prominently in the news over the years. Archives include more than stories that mention his name. He worked for four different state attorneys, who took credit for the cases he won.
In the mids, he led a trial team that practiced before the late Judge Robert Anderson Mitcham. Circuit Judge Michelle Sisco scored an early career highlight when Pruner named her to assist in the Singleton case. It was a strategic decision. The misogynistic defendant would be irritated with the female prosecutor. He truly was an exception to the norm. Chuck Massucci, a longtime Tampa homicide detective now with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, recalled the legal education he got from Pruner. They would often disagree on cases.
But Massucci knew Pruner as someone who let the law be his guide. Scott Harmon, a fellow homicide prosecutor, recalls practical jokes.
He was patient with everything. With the public, with judges, with the defense bar, with next of kin. When the family of Kevin McCall learned there had been an arrest in the shooting death of his son, Ryan, Pruner became a new and familiar face. Going into court, he took time to explain to them the process ahead, how the focus would be on the rights of the defendant, and he answered their questions throughout the trial.
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