Rejected by his father and abandoned to the streets by his drug-addled mother, convicted murderer Omar Cash was sleeping on a drug dealer's floor by age 8, denied any chance for a decent life, let alone a sense of right and wrong, his attorney told a Bucks County jury.
Which is why, Michael Goodwin argued to the panel on Tuesday, Cash should be spared a death sentence for the execution-style slaying of an immigrant carpenter in 2008.
"Don't execute a man who never had a mother or a father," Goodwin implored the jury, describing Cash as the impulsive, brain-damaged product of his harsh, dysfunctional boyhood in Philadelphia. "Don't execute a man who was left to be raised by wolves."
Cash, 28, was convicted last week of first-degree murder, robbery and other crimes in the May 11, 2008, carjacking and shooting death of Edgar Rosas-Gutierrez, 32, along an exit ramp in Bensalem. He also was convicted of raping and kidnapping the victim's girlfriend, who escaped and testified against Cash.
After deliberating for three hours late Tuesday, the six-man, six-woman jury was sent home without deciding whether Cash deserves death or life in prison for the murder. If - as most jurors indicated when polled by Bucks County Court Judge C. Theodore Fritsch - they remain deadlocked, Cash will be sentenced to life.
Deputy District Attorney Marc Furber told the jurors that Cash, despite his horrid childhood, was intelligent and had choices in life - and made the wrong ones.
"Just because someone has had an extremely bad childhood . . . does not give them a license to go out and kill just for killing's sake," Furber argued.
Noting that Cash, while under the supervision of Philadelphia's juvenile courts, became a straight-A student, scored 1350 on his SAT exam, and graduated from high school, the prosecutor added: "He had the raw materials to succeed."
Furber said that Cash deserved the death penalty in part because he put others at risk when he shot Rosas-Gutierrez a few hundred feet from an occupied motel, and because he killed while committing other felonies.
Goodwin, however, argued that Cash's mental maladies were not a matter of intelligence. He cited expert testimony that Cash - probably from a combination of fetal alcohol syndrome, childhood trauma, and a 2007 head injury - had severe damage to portions of his brain that left him unable to control his impulses.
Cash did not beg the jury for mercy, Goodwin said, because he is incapable of doing so. By serving life in prison, the lawyer said, Cash might someday be able to come to terms with the suffering he caused and to feel remorse.
"If you can show him mercy," Goodwin said, "that would be a great act of virtue."