Jurors deadlock; cop-killers get life sentences
Those sentences yesterday were automatically handed to two convicted cop-killers/bank robbers after a Philadelphia jury failed to reach unanimous decisions on whether to send them to death row.
Eric Deshann Floyd, 35, and Levon T. Warner, 40, showed no emotion when a visibly upset Common Pleas Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes announced the formal sentences.
"Eric Floyd is a coward. He's a punk. A coward of the highest order - just call a spade a spade," Hughes told Warner after Floyd had been sentenced and ushered from the heavily guarded courtroom.
"You are despicable," she told Warner, whose defense team argued that he should get life in prison due in part to brain injuries.
"I don't think you're brain-damaged. I don't think you're dumb. I think you're greedy," said Hughes, "greedy and lazy."
In street clothes for perhaps the last time, Warner, a large, bespectacled man who took a pounding as a mediocre pro boxer, apologized to his family and the family of his victim, police Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski, 39.
Floyd, who donned a white Muslim skull cap and an orange prison jumpsuit, declined to comment afterward.
Hughes told Floyd he had disrespected his faith and was irredeemable for having chosen the life of a thug, robber and murderer.
Besides life sentences, Hughes tacked on at least 67 1/2 years for Warner and 90 years for Floyd for conspiracy, robbery and weapons convictions.
The defendants, both high- school dropouts with criminal records dating from their teen years, were saved from death row by just two jurors, according to the jury forewoman, who gave her name as Gina and who said she was one of the 10 jurors who had voted for death sentences.
She looked disappointed while exiting the Criminal Justice Center with a group of fellow jurors, and she was not alone.
Many in the courtroom said they believed that death sentences were warranted for the May 3, 2008, slaying of Liczbinski. The 12-year veteran was shot eight times while trying to stop the defendants and their gunman accomplice after the three had robbed a Port Richmond bank of $38,100.
Police killed triggerman Howard Cain about 15 minutes later. Assistant District Attorney Jude Conroy argued at trial that the defendants were as responsible for the murder because they conspired with Cain in the moments before he unleashed eight blasts at the officer from a stolen assault rifle.
"We were hoping for the death penalty for both," Fraternal Order of Police President John McNesby said. "It's unfortunate that Steve is no longer with us, and these guys shouldn't be with us either."
Deputy Police Commissioner William Blackburn, who commended Conroy, said: "The only appropriate sentence for this matter is the death sentence. Unfortunately, we got life in prison."
Conroy said he respected the jury's decision, although "we thought this was a case that was appropriate for capital punishment."
"Hopefully now, this can at least begin the process of closure for the Liczbinski family," Conroy said. "It's been a long, incredibly public and painful process."
Michelle Liczbinski, the officer's widow, did not want to talk with reporters, Blackburn said.
She and her 18-year-old daughter, Amber, the youngest of the couple's three children, stoically left the courtroom surrounded by police brass and officers.
W. Fred Harrison Jr., one of Warner's two defense attorneys, said they planned to appeal.
Of the hung jury, he said: "I think it boiled down to whether or not these two guys were shooters or nonshooters. I think that that might have played a pivotal role in their decision."
Earl Kauffman, Floyd's lead attorney, left the courthouse without commenting.