Jurors in Detroit who convicted a man in the fatal shooting of an armored-truck courier will now decide whether he lives or dies.
The case against Timothy O’Reilly resumes in federal court Monday with the penalty phase. He could be sentenced to death under federal law, a punishment that’s never available for crimes prosecuted in state court.
O’Reilly last week was found guilty of killing Norman Stephens, who was shot and robbed in 2001 while stocking ATMs at Dearborn Federal Credit Union in Dearborn. Like a regular trial, the jury will hear arguments and testimony before making a decision.
WWJ and Fox 2 Legal Analyst Charlie Langton said because it happened on federal property that’s how it got federal jurisdiction, and federal law has a death penalty.
“All banks in the United States are regulated by the federal government,” Langton said. “And when the murder is committed on federal property with a federal personnel – the federal personnel was murdered – and therefore you get federal law, not state law.”
“The government must show that there is a significant aggravating factor – something about either the crime or this defendant’s life – that is so aggravating it would warrant the death penalty,” Langton said.
The defense at trial argued someone other than O’Reilly fired the fatal shot. The jury didn’t buy it, but Langton said they could revisit that argument during the penalty phase. Penalty phase is expected to take two days and the jury’s decision must be unanimous.
There hasn’t been a federal death sentence in Michigan since 2002, when Marvin Gabrion was convicted of killing a woman in a national forest. He’s appealing.
(Copyright 2010 by WWJ. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)