State rests in penalty hearing for convicted cop killer

The prosecution has rested its case in the penalty phase for Derrick Powell by calling two convicted felons to the stand.  Their goal was to present evidence of Powell’s prior criminal history and conduct as they seek the death penalty for the man convicted of murdering Georgetown Police Officer Chad Spicer. 

After the state’s final two witnesses were questioned outside of the jury’s presence, Powell’s defense attorney Dean Johnson sought to have their testimony barred, saying the witnesses lacked credibility.  Judge T. Henley Graves placed some limitations but allowed questioning to proceed.

One man, who was convicted of charges including forgery and resisting arrest, said Powell and another woman were engaged in a scam to cash fraudulent checks.  The man testified that he generated up to $15,000 for Powell by visiting various establishments and cashing the checks during the summer of 2009 by using Powell’s identification.  He also told jurors that Powell twice threatened him at gunpoint to shoot him and his family, and that he was afraid at the time to go to the police.  The man was arrested after police were called to an establishment in Milford during an attempt to cash a phony check.  He also said he received a phone call on the night of September 1, 2009 from Powell, who said he had shot someone and needed a ride.

The woman, who was also arrested in Milford, was called to the stand by the defense.  Her testimony conflicted with the other man’s version of the check scam that summer.  She said the man used his mother’s computer to print out the fraudulent checks, that he was addicted to prescription medication and smoked marijuana, and that he openly violated the rules of his probation by driving and going out of the state.  The woman said she never saw Powell threaten anyone with a gun.

A man who shared a home in Harrington with Powell also took the stand as a prosecution witness to discuss an alleged incident during which Powell pulled a knife out his sock and chased him.  This man, an admitted drug dealer, said Powell became violent after a seemingly-minor episode and went after him.  This happened one or two nights before the botched drug-related robbery at a Georgetown McDonald’s restaurant that led to Spicer’s pursuit of three men in a car.

Spicer was shot while sitting in his patrol car and died.  The driver of the car Powell was in fled the scene.  A third man testified during the trial that he stayed behind and tried to assist the officer.

The defense is expected to present additional witnesses when the penalty hearing resumes Wednesday.  During his opening statement Monday, Johnson said the jury would hear about Powell being abused as a youngster by his drug-using father and mother, and that his ability to think and reason never fully developed.

The jury will decide whether Powell should be put to death or spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of probation or parole.

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