Death sentence for convicted cop killer in Delaware

A Sussex County judge says Derrick Powell will die for his crime of murdering Georgetown Police Officer Chad Spicer in 2009.

Judge T. Henley Graves handed down the decision at the Sussex County Courthouse in Georgetown.  Earlier this year, a jury was split in its decision to recommend a death sentence for Powelll in a 7 to 5 vote.  Powell’s lawyers tried to block the death penalty sentence, citing the divided jury decision.

After weeks of suspense about the ultimate sentence, it took Judge Graves only about ten minutes to complete the sentencing, before  a courtroom of nearly 100 spectators. 

The judge said he took into account the same evidence that the jury heard during the trial and penalty phase.  Powell’s legal team tried to save his life by highlighting a terrible upbringing as a child by combative, drug-using parents.  Prosecutors presented evidence that Powell planned and carried out an attempted robbery prior to the shooting.  During the sentencing hearing, Spicer’s relatives and colleagues on the Georgetown police force testified that they would never be the same.

“The sad fact is that too many people are raised in dysfunctional families, and for that reason but also for other reasons they may become the ‘worst of the worst,'” Judge Graves said.  “Most similarly-situated people, although perhaps scarred by having been in a dysfunctional environment, nevertheless hold down jobs, are positively involved with their families, and go about their lives without being devoted to criminal activity.”

Judge Graves said that Powell chose to be a criminal, and that there was no evidence that he was being taught to be a robber.  “He is explosive and violent.  His path toward a violent and deadly event was set in motion not by others but by the decisions of Powell.  Powell chose to be a career criminal,” the judge added.

As the sentence of death was read, emotions ranged from gasps of relief to uncontrollable sobbing as Powell showed little emotion.

Following the sentencing hearing, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden issued a statement, saying justice was done.  “Throughout this entire case the Spicer family displayed exceptional courage and their courage is a reflection of Chad’s courage.  Tragedies like this can either bring a family or a community closer together or tear them apart.  The community rallied around the Spicer family and today Georgetown and Sussex County are stronger than ever.”

“I’ll be dealing with it the rest of my life,” Spicer’s mother Ruth Ann Spicer said.  “So will my husband, and so will Aubrey.”

Powell becomes the 19th person to be placed on death row in Delaware.  The sentence carries an automatic appeal.

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