The trial for two men accused of helping to murder a Philadelphia police officer following a 2008 bank robbery may last for up to six weeks, a Philadelphia judge told 121 potential jurors yesterday.
When many of those who packed into the largest courtroom in the Criminal Justice Center gasped upon learning that, Common Pleas Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes told them that their service was not just a commitment of time but also about standing for justice.
"This ain't a game for me," the judge said. "I know somebody lost his life, and two young men are on trial."
Still, when Hughes asked the would-be jurors how many would find it a hardship to serve on the jury, 68 raised a hand.
Another 30 raised a hand when the judge asked how many had "moral, religious or conscientious scruples" that would prevent them from serving on a case that could involve the death penalty.
The responses will likely require Hughes and prosecution and defense attorneys to spend a week or more selecting a jury and alternates to decide the fates of two accused cop-killers.
Eric Deshann Floyd, 35, of North Philadelphia, and Levon Terrell Warner, 41, of Mantua, are charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy, robbery and related offenses in the May 3, 2008, shooting death of Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski, 39.
If the jury finds them guilty of first-degree murder, it would then have to decide whether to sentence them to the death penalty or to life in prison without the chance of parole.
Floyd and Warner, along with a third man, Howard Cain, 33, allegedly robbed the Bank of America branch inside the ShopRite market at Aramingo and Castor avenues, in Port Richmond.
While fleeing Liczbinski in a Jeep they had stolen the day before, Floyd stopped the vehicle and Warner handed Cain a military-style semiautomatic rifle, which he used to shoot the officer five times, according to police and statements Floyd and Warner gave after being arrested.
In his statement, Floyd said killing Liczbinski "was never intended." He also said: "I'm not the monster people make me out to be."
Cain was killed by police later that day after the three had split up.
Liczbinski, a married father of three children, was three days shy of his 40th birthday when he was gunned down at Schiller and Almond streets in Port Richmond. He is one of five Philadelphia officers to die in the line of duty since 2007.
Before jury selection began, Floyd told Hughes that he was irritated by one of his defense attorneys, William Bowe, and wanted to fire him and represent himself.
The judge told Floyd he was not being rational and turned down his requests.
CORRECTION: This story iincorrectly reported the number of Philadelphia police officers who have been killed in the line of duty since 2007. Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski was one of six killed in that time.