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Jury weighs death penalty for inmate in killing of prison officer

Anne Arundel County jurors began weighing the possibility of a death sentence Wednesday for the inmate they convicted of murdering a correctional officer at a now-closed state prison in Jessup.

"He brutally murdered, stabbing and ending the life of David McGuinn," prosecutor Sandra F. Howell told the jury, as convicted killer Lee Edward "Shy" Stephens, 32, looked on. "For that, ladies and gentlemen, the law provides the ultimate penalty."

If the jury, scheduled to resume deliberations Thursday morning, agrees with her, Stephens would become the first person to receive a death sentence under Maryland's new and more restrictive capital punishment law.

The jury's sentencing choices are death, life without parole and life with the possibility of parole.

Howell said Stephens, in trouble as a youth, was imprisoned for life plus 15 years because he posed a threat to the public after he was convicted of murdering a man outside a nightclub when he was 17. But now, she said, he has shown he is a danger to people inside prison as well.

In 2006, he slipped out of a cell whose lock was jimmied and fatally ambushed McGuinn as the officer was making evening rounds. Stephens' record shows prison infractions that include punching a correctional officer in the face last year.

Defense lawyer Gary E. Proctor asked jurors for mercy, telling them to consider Stephens' impoverished home life of "chaos and cruelty" and his learning disability. He was surrounded by violence all his life, Proctor said.

In addition, he said, because a second prisoner has been charged in the fatal stabbing of McGuinn, Stephens cannot be held entirely to blame for the death of the 42-year-old correctional officer.

Not being the sole cause of someone's murder is one of the factors jurors can weigh as they determine a sentence.

andrea.siegel@baltsun.com

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