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Jury Sentences Poplawski To Death

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(Photo Credit: KDKA)

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Harold Hayes Harold Hayes
Harold Hayes joined KDKA-TV in August of 1979 as a general assignment...
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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – It took a jury just about two hours to determine that convicted cop-killer Richard Poplawski should face the death penalty.

The panel of seven men and five women from Dauphin County received the case around 4:30 p.m.; the verdict was read shortly after 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Prosecutor Mark Tranquilli emerged from the courtroom quoting Paul Sciullo’s father saying, “This was not a day for vengeance, but rather a day for justice.”

As he headed for death row, KDKA-TV’s Harold Hayes asked Poplawski if he had anything to say.

Poplawski’s response: “No.”

Police rushed outside to applaud the prosecutor and the victim’s families as the defense attorney discussed his client’s reaction after the verdict had been read.

“What came out of his mouth at that point at least was he’s very sorry. Which sounds, I know, trite in light of the horrendousness of this incident and loss of life and however else. But, if you ask what his response was, yes he expressed the fact that he was very sorry,” William Brennan said.

Before resting its case this afternoon, the defense continued to focus on the family of the man convicted of killing three Pittsburgh Police officers.

Members of the defendant’s family testified that they rarely saw any affection between Poplawski and his mother. They also said the defendant’s maternal grandfather terrorized the family and others.

Poplawski was visibly tearful when his own biological father testified that he left the home after repeated confrontations with his then-wife, Margaret Poplawski. She is said to have stabbed the father twice.

Margaret Poplawski’s repeated suicide attempts were recounted in court as well.

Closing arguments began shortly before 2 p.m. The defense finished shortly before 3:30 p.m.

Prosecutor Mark Tranquilli pointed to a picture of Eric Kelly. With tears in his eyes he said, “Don’t talk to me about growing up without a father.”

He recalled the officer’s mother testifying that she always told her son, “Don’t let a bad environment become part of you.”

He said Kelly made something of his life and used this example to counter the defense’s contention that a broken home was a factor in Poplawski’s decision to kill three officers.

Teachers testified that Poplawski had a high IQ and dropped out of school. The prosecution said that the officers may not have had the defendant’s IQ, but had sense enough to do the right thing.

District Attorney Stephen Zappala expressed gratitude to the families of the fallen officers.

“They handled the trial with a quiet dignity that should serve as an example to all of us,” Zappala said.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl sat in the courtroom for parts of the trial. He released a statement Tuesday night.

“This tragedy has changed us all and the damage that has been done is irreversible. But through this tragedy, we are reminded of the ultimate sacrifice that our fallen heroes have made, and we can honor our heroes every day by giving gratitude to the men and women who risk their lives in the line of duty.”

Poplawski will now be formally sentenced in September.

RELATED STORIES/LINKS:
Families Of Fallen Officers Offer Emotional Testimony
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Pittsburgh Police

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