Jury Hears From Family In Death Penalty Trial
Jurors considering the federal death penalty for the convicted killer of an armored-truck courier heard emotional recollections from the victim’s family on Tuesday as prosecutors approached the end of their case.
Symoan Stephens, 10, said she doesn’t remember her father, Norman “Anthony” Stephens, who was fatally shot in 2001. Reading a letter to the judge and jury, she said: “All I want is to have a dad.”
Timothy O’Reilly, 37, was found guilty last week and faces a possible death sentence in the slaying of Stephens, 30, who was killed in a middle-of-the-night robbery at Dearborn Federal Credit Union in Dearborn. Michigan outlawed capital punishment in 1846, but O’Reilly is being prosecuted in federal court where the death penalty is possible.
Prosecutors planned to end their two-day case with more testimony from family, including widow Robin Stephens. Witnesses were allowed to speak about their loss but could not express an opinion about whether O’Reilly should die or get a life sentence.
Some jurors wiped their eyes during the testimony.
A niece, Tywone Thomas, recalled how Stephens had planned to move his family to his native state, Mississippi, to escape the pressures of a large metro area. They last talked just a few weeks before his death after his father’s funeral.
“He said, ‘I’m coming back home,”’ said Thomas, pausing to control her tears. “We didn’t know how he was coming.”
Stephens is buried near Philipp, Miss. He raised six children on an $11-an-hour salary.
Defense lawyers will present evidence about O’Reilly’s alleged brain abnormality and a troubled childhood to persuade the jury to choose a life sentence. Jurors will start deliberating next week. The death penalty decision must be unanimous.
Prosecutors played recorded calls between O’Reilly in jail and his family in California and Arizona to show that he wasn’t the meek, “clueless” man that his lawyers portrayed him to be at the time of the $200,000 robbery. Five other men were also charged.
“I don’t do what people say,” O’Reilly told his mother in a call before trial. “I’m a doer.”
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)