ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)– A jury goes home for the day in the sentencing phase of the man convicted of killing a Maryland corrections officer. That jury will decide if Lee Stephens should be put to death.
Weijia Jiang has the final pleas from both sides in this case.
This sentencing hearing is very much like a trial of its own. And right before jurors got the case, prosecutors pushed for the ultimate punishment, while the defense begged for mercy.
A jury is deciding whether Lee Stephens should live or die. Earlier this month, the 32-year-old was convicted of first-degree murder for the fatal stabbing of Cpl. David McGuinn, an officer who worked at the now-closed Maryland House of Correction in Jessup.
The 2006 slaying happened inside the prison, leaving blood splattered on Stephens’ clothing, shoes and cell bars.
That very evidence makes him eligible to receive the death penalty.
In 2009, the state legislature enforced more stringent requirements to seek capital punishment– biological or DNA evidence, a video recording of the crime or a videotaped confession is necessary.
This case is the first test ever of its DNA link.
In closing arguments during sentencing, prosecutor Sandra Howell told jurors: “Stephens brutally murdered, stabbing, ending the life of David McGuinn. This is the ultimate crime. For that crime, the law provides the ultimate penalty.”
But the jury will also consider mitigating factors. Stephens’ attorney pointed to a troubled childhood, filled with violence, drugs and sexual abuse. Defense Attorney Michael Lawler said: “He was taught insanity, hate and cruelty from the moment he was old enough to learn.”
He then asked: “Have you ever heard of a tortured existence?”
This jury took about a week to return with a guilty verdict. Now that they’re facing a matter of life or death, it’s anyone’s guess when they’ll decide on a sentence.
If Stephens is sentenced to death, it will automatically go to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.