John "Jordon" Lewis, the man sentenced to die by lethal injection for the murder of police officer Chuck Cassidy was stoic as he learned his fate yesterday and then apologized to the slain officer's family one last time.
"I take this sentence with honor for Chuck and my family...I apologize deeply but words cannot express that....You do not know how many nights I have cried in jail," he told the court before being formally sentenced to death.
"I am not going to try to weasel myself out of this," he continued. "I am going to stand up like a man and take responsibility for the action that I have done."
Lewis' statements came after a Philadelphia jury unanimously agreed to send him to Pennsylvania's death row for murdering Cassidy.
The jury's decision followed a week and a half of emotional testimony from more than 40 witnesses, including the late officer's wife, Judy, and two of the couple's three children.
The Cassidy family, along with Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and dozens of his officers packed courtroom 304 of the Criminal Justice Center to hear the verdict.
Lewis, a 23-year-old, high school dropout from North Philadelphia, fatally shot Cassidy, 54, while robbing a West Oak Lane Dunkin' Donuts shop Oct. 31, 2007.
Following a formal sentencing by Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey Minehart, the death verdict will be automatically reviewed by the state Supreme Court.
The court can either uphold the sentence or vacate for imposition of a life sentence without a parole, according to state law.
If the verdict is upheld, Lewis would be the 222nd person on Pennsylvania's death row, the 14th condemned for murdering a law enforcement officer and the 7th who has murdered a Philadelphia cop, according to the department of corrections.
During closing arguments in the morning, Assistant District Attorney Edward Cameron told the jurors that condemning a man to death is not an easy thing to do, but in the case of Lewis, it is necessary and the right thing.
"He's willing to place the value of money over the value of human life," Cameron said, holding a $10 bill and glaring at Lewis, who exercised his right not to testify in his own behalf.
Defense attorney Bernard Siegel, speaking in a soft, grandfatherly tone, said Lewis was remorseful, which led him to plead guilty to six armed robberies and to a general murder count on the eve of the trial.
Banishment to prison for life would be a sufficient punishment, he tried to convince the jury.
"Is this person too evil to live? Is he the worse of the worse? He stood before you and said, 'I did it.' Is he in the category of serial killers...Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy?"
Cameron told the jurors that among the reasons they should choose death rather than life in prison for the defendant is to send a message of support to the police, whom he described as the city's "Thin Blue Line" of protection from criminals such as Lewis.
"We have to tell them, 'We have your back,'" Cameron intoned.
He ridiculed the defense team's arguments first made last week that Lewis' age of 21 at the time of the murder and the fact that his father was murdered when he was 5 years old are mitigating circumstances to spare his life.
Most of the nation's soldiers fighting in the Middle East and those in their graves at Arlington National Cemetery are 21 years old, Cameron said, while President Obama and Bill Cosby are among the many successful men who have grown up without fathers.
"He knows more than anybody the affect of losing a father. How did it affect him? He took their father away," Cameron said, pointing at Katie, Colby and John Cassidy.
Siegel, who labeled Cameron's argument as "highly emotional and extremely cynical," told the jurors that their decision must not be made based on "having someone's back," or on emotion or vengeance.
He asked the panel to recall that Lewis pleaded guilty to his crimes, which is very rare in Philadelphia, leaving them to decide if he committed first- or second- degree murder.
The jury found Lewis guilty last week of first-degree murder.
"What more can he do to show that he understands that what he has done is so terrible that he should never walk among us again?" said Siegel.
"When a person says, 'I want to go away for the rest of my life,' do you have to execute him also to establish society's rights?"