When Brooks was originally sentenced for killing Rachel Carlson and her 3-month-old daughter, Alexis, state law did not require all jurors to agree, only that a majority of them vote to recommend the death sentence. He has been appealing from death row since the 1998 sentence was handed down.

FORT WALTON BEACH — Convicted double murderer Lamar Brooks successfully fought off a death sentence he's had hanging over his head since 1998, and left an Okaloosa County courtroom this week with a reversal.

A jury asked to re-hear the death penalty phase of his case failed to return a unanimous verdict to sentence Brooks to death.

When Brooks was originally sentenced for killing Rachel Carlson and her 3-month-old daughter, Alexis, state law did not require all jurors to agree, only that a majority of them vote to recommend the death sentence. He has been appealing from death row since the 1998 sentence was handed down.

A change in the law has made it a requirement that Florida juries return a unanimous recommendation for death before that sentence can be imposed. The change prompted an appeals court to call for a rehearing of the death penalty phase of Brooks' case.

This was Brooks' third appeal, and its conclusion assures him of spending the rest of his life behind bars.

"We felt like we presented all of the aggravating circumstances that were available," said Bill Bishop, chief assistant state attorney for Okaloosa County.

Aggravating factors are presented by prosecutors as part of their rationale for seeking a death sentence. Defense attorneys use what are known as mitigating factors to bolster their case against execution.

Bishop's office argued that the brutality with which Brooks killed Carlson and her baby merited him paying the ultimate price.

Brooks' attorney argued that his client was a changed man and that no crime is so horrible that a person should be put to death.

Bishop added that it took seven days to select a jury and that hundreds of people were considered.

"This is an extremely difficult decision for people to make," he said of sentencing someone to die. "We respect the decision that they made."

He said the State Attorneys Office doesn't know how many of the jurors voted for or against the death penalty sentence in Brooks' case. All it takes is one vote to spare a life.

"He will spend the rest of his life in prison, and that closes that chapter in the case," Bishop said.

The trial lasted 12 days before the verdict came down late Tuesday.