PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The penalty phase for a man convicted of first-degree murder in Washington County resumed on Wednesday, with his mother taking the stand.
Earlier this week Jordan Clemons was convicted in the death of Karissa Kunco.
The penalty phase began on Tuesday with Clemons’ father saying he was to blame for his son’s anger problem.
Robert Clemons told the jury that the anger his son had welled up inside of him was the result of physical beatings by him due to his own addiction to drugs and alcohol. At one point, there was testimony that all three children once tried to pull the father off their mother when he physically abused her.
“I knew her. I knew Karissa. There’s been times that she called me literally in the middle of the night crying and asking me to pray for Jordan because of what he was feeling and all the anger that he had welled up inside of him,” said Robert. “His father, I used to be the superman in his eyes, has failed him. And that’s the bottom line. That’s what I did.”
Today, Jordan’s mother, Freda Thorpe, testified about the abuse.
“There was a rage in our house,” she said. “Sometimes we were afraid to go home.”
Thorpe testified that Robert Clemons’ abuse was not limited to physical altercations.
“There was abuse – verbally, physically, emotionally and mentally. It started in Germany when he was in the military. He slapped me. I thought it was just a moment and that we’ll get past it,” she said. “It’s a horrible memory. He fought all of us like a man, including myself.”
But Jordan had bright spots in his life as a standout football player at Fort Cherry High School. His uncle, former Green Bay Packers player, Perry Kemp testified they bonded over the years with football as a starting point.
However, the death of his older brother, coupled with an unhappy home life, sent Jordan on a downward spiral, according to his family.
Defense neuropsychologist Dr. Sue Beers testified Jordan had evidence of brain injury, inflicted either during beatings from his father or during a head-to-head injury in football. She said he also suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and drug abuse.
None of it can excuse his culpability in the murder now. The jury already convicted him of first-degree murder.
The defense hopes jurors will take his background into consideration when they decide life or death.
One of the aggravating factors jurors have to consider is whether Clemons has a significant, violent criminal history.
Prosecutors detailed Clemons’ juvenile arrest for punching a teacher in Delaware County in 2006, as well as convictions for two armed robberies in Canonsburg in 2009.
Another aggravating factor is the murder happened while the victim was under a Protection from Abuse order against him.
The defense is offering mitigating circumstances hoping to spare Jordan’s life including:
He was under extreme mental distress at the time, his capacity to understand the criminality of the act was impaired, his age at the time (22) as well as evidence of an abusive childhood, a brain injury from playing football, a drug history and the loss of his brother in 2011.
By the end of Wednesday’s proceedings, testimony had wrapped up in the penalty phase. Closing arguments will begin Thursday.
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