Posted on Wed, Nov. 25, 2009
By MENSAH M. DEAN
Philadelphia Daily News
MOMENTS AFTER the jury forewoman announced yesterday that he would die for murdering a Philadelphia police officer, John “Jordan” Lewis – in a calm voice that competed with his mother’s sobs – asked his victim’s family to somehow forgive him.
“I take this sentence with honor for Chuck, for my family and for the choices I made. I really don’t know what I can say to anyone in here to make you forgive me,” began the burly high school dropout.
“I apologize deeply. Words can not even express . . . I just pray that one day you find it in your heart, somehow, some way, to forgive me,” he added.
Judy Cassidy, the widow of Officer Chuck Cassidy, minutes earlier told Lewis that in her house he is known as “the a–hole” because she can not bear to speak his name.
“In my eyes, there is nothing in this world that could make up for what you have taken from us,” she said, as her three children listened from the front row. “You have shattered our dreams, you have shattered our lives.”
In the tone of a disapproving teacher, Cassidy told Lewis that his bad choices to drop out of school, to not get an honest job, to become an armed robber and to assassinate her husband have doomed him.
“So, you have made many choices and they will stay with you for the rest of your life. In our eyes, you are the worst of the worst.”
It took the Common Pleas Court jury about an hour to reach its unanimous verdict, which was read at 1:45 p.m. before an overflow audience that included Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and dozens of officers of all ranks.
Judge Jeffrey Minehart immediately formally sentenced Lewis, a step in the court process that often takes place weeks later.
Ramsey said Lewis got what he deserved, while lamenting that the death sentence would not bring back the family man and “tremendous police officer” that the 25-year veteran was.
“Some people, unfortunately, are just idiots and thugs, and they do as they do and they give no real thought to it. But at least this guy will not be out to hurt anybody else,” Ramsey said after leaving the courtroom.
“I would hope that people paid attention to [the verdict], but I can’t say with confidence that they have. Unfortunately, we have four more trials next year,” the commissioner added, alluding to other recently slain officers.
“Whatever happens to him, the sentence was fair and just,” John McNesby, president of the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police, said after leaving the Criminal Justice Center.
Lynn Dyches, Lewis’ mother, who is employed as a Philadelphia prison correctional officer, was shielded by relatives as she fled the courthouse without commenting.
Lewis, of North Philadelphia, went on a crime rampage in fall 2007 during which he robbed four Dunkin’ Donuts and two pizza parlors.
That Oct. 31, during the sixth and final holdup, at the Dunkin’ Donuts at Broad Street near 66th Avenue, he fatally shot Cassidy as the officer drew his gun.
Cassidy, 54, died the next day. His heart and other organs were donated to transplant patients, it was revealed during the emotion-drenched trial that lasted a week and a half.
The death verdict will be automatically reviewed by the state Supreme Court. The court can either uphold the sentence or vacate for imposition of a life sentence without a parole, according to state law.
If the verdict is upheld, Lewis would be the 222nd person currently on Pennsylvania’s death row, the 14th condemned for murdering a law-enforcement officer and the seventh who has murdered a Philadelphia cop, according to the Department of Corrections.
During closing arguments yesterday morning, Assistant District Attorney Edward Cameron told the jurors that condemning a man to death is not an easy thing to do, but in the case of Lewis, it is necessary.
“He’s willing to place the value of money over the value of human life,” Cameron said, holding a $10 bill and glaring at Lewis, who exercised his right not to testify on his own behalf.
In condemning Lewis, the jury forewoman said that the panel had found mitigating circumstances to spare his life but also found three aggravating circumstances that carried more weight: Lewis killed a police officer in the line of duty; he committed the murder in the commission of another crime; and he has a significant history of violent felony convictions, as a result of the armed robberies.
Judy Cassidy, flanked by her family on her eldest daughter Katie’s birthday, told reporters that she was glad the trial was over but that the pain would never be.
“Like I said in court, there are no winners today. It doesn’t make us feel any better,” she said, her eyes behind dark shades on a cloudy day. “We go home now and still deal with this.”