A North Philadelphia man who in 2012 had been on probation for just 10 days before killing Philadelphia Police Officer Moses Walker was convicted Thursday of first-degree murder.
After a four-day nonjury trial, Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey P. Minehart found that Rafael Jones, 25, was the gunman who with Chancier McFarland accosted, robbed, and shot the 19-year veteran officer, who was walking to a bus stop after his night shift as turnkey in North Philadelphia's 22d District.
Jones, tall, lanky, and balding, stood impassively beside lawyer Michael Coard as Minehart announced guilty verdicts on murder, robbery, conspiracy, and three firearms counts.
Not so were Jones' relatives.
"I love you, Ralph," cried one.
"This too shall pass," echoed several others.
Coard said he would appeal, citing purported errors by the judge in allowing cellphone and video evidence Coard said was "not properly authenticated."
The first-degree murder verdict carries a mandatory life prison term without parole, but it could have been worse. Jones agreed to the nonjury trial if the District Attorney's Office did not seek the death penalty.
Minehart ordered a presentencing and mental health assessment for Jones before a formal sentencing hearing on March 6.
That hearing will give Walker's relatives and fellow officers a chance to make public victim-impact statements.
The 40-year-old officer's mother, Wayne Lipscomb, said she would.
"Every time I spoke to Moses, Moses greeted me with, 'Hey, beautiful,' " Lipscomb recalled after the verdict. "I don't get to hear that anymore. I don't get to hear, 'Mom, it's restaurant week, pick out a restaurant.' "
Lipscomb said her son's death was the "nightmare I'm living the rest of my life. . . . I shouldn't have to be in here wearing this memorial T-shirt. None of us should have to be here today. We don't need a bigger courtroom. We don't. We need the senseless shooting to cease."
Assistant District Attorney Brian Zarallo called Walker a "credit to the badge and a credit to his community. This was a senseless, despicable act."
On Aug. 18, 2012, Walker left the police station at 17th Street and Montgomery Avenue about 5:30 a.m. He was dressed in civilian clothes - shorts, athletic jacket, and baseball cap - and was carrying a backpack and wearing earphones. He was targeted, McFarland testified, because he looked like a student from nearby Temple University - "an easy mark."
McFarland, 21, pleaded guilty and testified against Jones in a plea deal with prosecutors in exchange for a 20- to 40-year prison term.
McFarland testified that Jones shot Walker when the officer reached for a weapon.
After Walker collapsed at Cecil B. Moore Avenue and Woodstock Street, McFarland said, he grabbed the officer's iPod and earphones before taking off.
In closing arguments, Coard called McFarland a liar and the actual shooter.
Coard noted that McFarland supplied the gun, disposed of it after the shooting, and was the only one to steal any of Walker's belongings.
"Isn't that convenient?" Coard asked, referring to McFarland's testifying - the only witness to do so - that Jones shot Walker. "Doesn't that go against common sense?"
Coard called McFarland's plea deal and sentence "a Christmas present. That's outrageous even if he's telling the truth."
In his closing, Assistant District Attorney Jude Conroy acknowledged the deal with McFarland was a "deal with the devil" but added that McFarland was the only person willing to testify about what happened that morning.
"Yes, he's a corrupt, polluted source," Conroy added. "He's also the best friend of the defendant."