As the family of slain Police Officer Thomas Trench awaited a verdict yesterday in the murder trial of the man accused of killing him 23 years ago, an accused cop-killer in a separate slaying walked into a courtroom across the hall.
John "Jordan" Lewis, accused of killing Police Officer Chuck Cassidy, entered Courtroom 903 with his hands cuffed in front of him, and a metal belt wrapped around his waist to further restrict his movements.
Dressed in a gray prison sweatshirt, he looked depressed and wore thick, round black-rimmed glasses. His hair, now short, has grown back since he shaved it sometime before his January preliminary hearing on murder, robbery and weapons charges.
Lewis, 21, of Hunting Park, yesterday faced a misdemeanor trial on a drug charge. Municipal Court Judge Jimmie Moore is expected to rule on the case June 17.
Lewis had appeared in the Criminal Justice Center for a status listing on the drug case Nov. 2, two days after he allegedly shot Cassidy. Cassidy, 54, died Nov. 1.
Michael Coard, Lewis' defense attorney, acknowledged after yesterday's proceeding that his client was depressed. "He's out of it mentally and emotionally," he said.
Coard said he recently learned from Lewis' mother that Lewis has "serious vision problems."
Lewis apparently didn't wear glasses before "because he was on the street; he didn't want to look nerdy," Coard said.
Coard also said he has been trying to speak to prosecutors to work out something in Lewis' potential death-penalty case in the Cassidy killing. "Ultimately, my goal is to limit the loss of life beyond what we already have," he said.
He claimed that prosecutors would not even give him a chance to discuss "any reasonable resolution."
Asked afterward, Assistant District Attorney Ed Cameron disagreed. He said Coard "has not attempted to discuss anything with us" about a nontrial disposition.
In court yesterday, Police Officer Chris Hulmes testified that about 3:30 p.m. June 14, 2007, he saw Lewis give money to another man, Gerald Weddington, in front of a rowhouse on North 8th Street near Pike, Hunting Park.
Weddington then walked into the house, returned with a clear plastic bag and gave it to Lewis, he said.
Hulmes said that from his experience and knowledge of that location, he recognized what took place "as a drug transaction." He radioed the information in.
Shortly afterward, Officer James Reilly arrested Lewis and field-tested the nine orange packets found inside the clear plastic bag and discovered that they contained marijuana, Hulmes said.
Coard argued that police had not had probable cause to arrest Lewis based on Hulmes' testimony. The officer saw an unknown amount of money handed over for an unknown object, Coard said.
"It's not a crime to have a plastic bag," he said.
On Coard's request, the judge agreed to delay his verdict so both sides could submit legal briefs to defend their positions.
As this was going on, a Common Pleas jury across the hall deliberated in the murder trial of defendant Wilfredo Santiago, accused of killing Officer Trench in May 1985. At the end of the day, the jury still had not reached its verdict after having deliberated since late Monday afternoon. *