A jury in Detroit will Wednesday begin discussing a possible federal death sentence for a man convicted of murder during a bank robbery.
Timothy O’Reilly, convicted of killing an armored-truck courier during a Detroit-area bank robbery should “pay the ultimate price,” a prosecutor told jurors Tuesday as he urged them to order a federal death sentence.
Some jurors wiped their eyes as they listened to more than three hours of closing arguments in a case rarely seen in Michigan. The state’s Constitution forbids the death penalty, but it’s an option for murders prosecuted in federal court.
Norman “Anthony” Stephens, 30, was gunned down while refilling ATMs in the middle of the night at Dearborn Federal Credit Union in Dearborn in 2001. Timothy O’Reilly, one of six people charged, was convicted Aug. 3
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Chadwell reminded jurors that they were chosen because they said they could order a death sentence under certain circumstances. A verdict in favor of death must be unanimous.
After instructions from the judge, the jury of 10 women and two men left the courtroom for deliberations about 3:10 p.m.
“We ask that you not take the easy way out,” Chadwell said of a prison sentence. “The road to justice is a difficult road.”
He recalled the facts: Stephens, a father of six making $11 an hour, was shot in the back and the legs during a middle-of-the-night ambush at the credit union. O’Reilly and others got away with $204,000.
Chadwell again played excerpts of a secretly recorded prison conversation in 2004 in which O’Reilly told another inmate “we shot him” because Stephens reached for his gun. He laughs on the tape and says the victim “had a big hole” from his wounds.
“Anthony Stephens was wrongfully and brutally murdered … and his murderer, Timothy O’Reilly, should pay the ultimate price,” Chadwell told the jury.
Closing arguments followed two weeks of testimony during the trial’s penalty phase. Much of that time was used by the defense to show that O’Reilly, a native of Camarillo, Calif., grew up in an abusive family and had poor self-esteem, a weak school record and was easily manipulated in his search to be accepted.
It was that manipulation, the defense contends, that brought O’Reilly to Detroit in the late 1990s to live with Norman Duncan, someone he got to know in southern California. Duncan faces his own trial in Stephens’ death.
Defense lawyer Richard Kammen said jurors would be “heroes” if they chose a life sentence.
“We all know that Norman Stephens’ life had value and his death caused enormous pain,” Kammen said. “But you don’t have to add to the pain, you don’t have to add to the grief … to do justice.”
He said O’Reilly’s life has value, even if the 37-year-old spends the rest of his life behind bars doing mundane jobs that make other inmates comfortable.
Chadwell, however, said O’Reilly would be dangerous even in prison. He noted the trial testimony of people who said O’Reilly was willing to hire people to kill witnesses.
“He has no remorse. He has no internal constraints to stop him from hurting people,” Chadwell said.
At the time of his death, Stephens was hoping to move his family to Philipp, Miss., where he grew up, to live in his late father’s house and escape the pressures of a major urban area. In 1997, he married a single mother of three young boys and the couple had two girls of their own.
“And now they need a daddy again,” Chadwell said of the boys, “and this man sitting right over here deprived them of that.”
After jurors left the courtroom, U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts stepped down from the bench and shook hands with O’Reilly and lawyers on each side.
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 is appealing.
The last time that was somebody was actually put to death in Michigan was back in the 1930’s, before Michigan banned the death penalty.
WWJ and Fox 2 News Legal Analyst Charlie Langton said O’Reilly doesn’t seem to be getting any sympathy from jurors who will decide whether he will live or die.
“Looking at the jury, the jury is not making any eye contact with the defendant. And, I counted at least four jurors with some tears in their eyes, especially when the government talked about the impact on the victim’s family,” Langton said
If the jury comes back with the death penalty, it must be unanimous. If one juror says that the defendant should not get the death penalty, then the defendant will automatically get life in prison.
(Copyright 2010 WWJ Radio. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed this report.)