PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The penalty phase for convicted cop-killer Richard Poplawski began Monday morning.
During opening statements, Prosecutor Mark Tranquilli said the death penalty is for criminals like Poplawski.
“We save the death penalty for the worst of the worst. People like Richard Poplawski,” Tranquilli said. “He got a taste of what it’s like to murder somebody then he did it two more times.”
The prosecution was expected to call 10 family members for victim impact statements.
The jury heard the first of the victim impact statements shortly before noon.
Julia Sciullo, mother of Officer Paul Sciullo, testified tearfully, “I didn’t want Paul to be a hero. I just wanted him to be my beautiful son. We will not give one more moment thinking about Richard Poplawski. We have taken too much time doing that already.”
Defense attorney William Brennan talked about Poplawaki’s relatives during his opening statement.
“You will hear testimony that his grandfather was evil, was an out and out racist and filled the house with guns. His grandfather once put a gun to his wife’s head and played Russian roulette,” Brennan said.
The testimony wrapped up for the day after 5 p.m. The last to testify on day one was Officer Stephen Mayhle’s widow.
The defense will begin their case on Tuesday and have agreed not to present any psychiatric evidence.
On Saturday, a jury of seven men and five women found Poplawski guilty on all counts, including first-degree murder, in the 2009 shooting deaths of three Pittsburgh Police officers.
Now, the jury will have to decide it Poplawski should spend the rest of his life in jail, or if he should be put to death.
The prosecution is expected to call 120 witnesses, including members of the fallen officers’ families. The defense is expected to call 52 witnesses.
“This is the case they had in mind when they fashioned the death penalty. A willful, deliberate, intentional, premeditated murder of police officers executing their duties,” Pittsburgh attorney Robert Del Greco said. “This is what the death penalty statute was made to address.”
The defense has filed a motion to limit the testimony from the officers’ families. They will also focus on Poplawski’s mental state in an attempt to keep him off death row.
Currently, there are 231 people on death row in Pennsylvania and there have only been three executions since 1978.