Ramir Steve didn't flinch when the jury foreman announced the guilty verdict yesterday in his death-penalty trial. He stared straight ahead, just as he had done throughout the proceedings.
The 19-year-old Upper Darby man was found guilty of first-degree murder, robbery, and possession of firearms without a license in the Christmas Eve 2007 shooting of cabdriver Gregory Cunningham.
The jurors, seven men and five women, debated for more than 18 hours. They will return tomorrow to begin the penalty-phase portion of the trial.
"It is such a release of emotions," Judy Cunningham, the victim's mother, said to her husband, Jack, and other family and friends in the hallway after the verdict was announced.
The body of the 42-year-old Clifton Heights man was found in a walkway between two buildings of the Park Lane East Apartments in Upper Darby, hours after he was dispatched to the 7400 block of Rogers Avenue, where Steve lived.
A cab-company dispatcher testified that a man - not Cunningham - had answered the driver's radio call and said Cunningham would not be going to pick up his next fare.
In his closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney James Halligan said Steve had lured the cab driver that night to rob him and steal the cab. Steve later told three friends he had committed the murder, Halligan said, asking the jury to recall the testimonies.
During his two-hour closing argument, defense attorney Walter Breslin, who had not called any witnesses, suggested that Steve's identical twin was the culprit.
"There was a match on the revolver. Romar and Ramir have the same DNA. Both handled it," Breslin said.
He asked the jury to take into consideration that Romar Steve, who is facing separate weapons and conspiracy charges in the case, got a "good deal" from prosecutors for his cooperation.