A convicted murderer who asked to be put to death last week was spared the death penalty Tuesday when a jury voted 11-1 to recommend a life sentence.
Luis Sierra, 25, was convicted last month in the 2010 fatal shooting of 28-year-old drug dealer Anthony Bing, who was gunned down in Wilmington during a robbery for a quarter-pound of marijuana.
Sierra is the 3rd and final man to be convicted in the drug-related slaying.
A jury found him guilty Jan. 27 of 2 counts of 1st-degree murder and 5 other charges.
In an earlier plea deal with prosecutors, co-defendant Gregory Napier, 22, admitted to manslaughter, robbery and a weapons count in Bing's slaying.
A second defendant, 36-year-old Tywann Johnson, was found guilty in September of 1st-degree murder, robbery, weapons offenses and conspiracy. Johnson faces an automatic life sentence at his hearing on March 2.
Superior Court Judge Richard R. Cooch will decide Sierra's fate at a subsequent sentencing hearing. It would be extraordinary, however, for a judge to go against such a strong jury recommendation against the death penalty.
On Jan. 31, Sierra had demanded that Cooch dismiss his court-appointed attorneys, Christopher Tease and John Barber, and grant him a new trial.
Cooch denied his request and Sierra rehired his lawyers the next day.
While addressing the jury on Thursday, Tease painted a portrait of his client as being raised in a dysfunctional family, saying he had been sexually abused, encouraged to snort cocaine since the age of 2, and that he suffered from problems with impulse control.
Tease told the jury that his client was not the "worst of the worst" and did not deserve to be put to death.
Following 4 hours of deliberation, the jury voted to impose a sentence of life in prison.
Sentencing will be held at a later date, the judge said.
Cooch informed prosecutors that they have until Monday to submit a letter about their posture on the sentencing.
"This was a horrible crime, with a defendant who has not shown any good qualities in his life," said Deputy Attorney General John Downs.
"Whatever sentence the judge imposes is appropriate."
Sierra did not display any emotion at the jury's decision, but after the hearing Tease said he was "thrilled" by the outcome.
"We appreciate all the time the jury gave in the monthlong trial and deliberations," he said.
(source: News Journal)