Convicted murderer Eric Joseph Tirado, his voice cracking and his body wracked by sobs, stood before a jury today and pleaded for his life.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I don't want to die," Tirado beseeched the Howard County Circuit Court jury that will decide whether he should beexecuted in the gas chamber.
Tirado, 27, of the Bronx, N.Y., was convicted July 18 of killing Maryland State Police Cpl. Theodore D. Wolf last year.
"I understand the pain I have caused the family of Trooper Wolf," he said, looking downward as he stood before the jury. He said he felt shame and regret for his actions. "I would like to say I'm sorry, deeply sorry for the pain I have caused."
He told the jury he also was sorry for hurting his own family, and he asked the panel for a chance to become "a better person" in prison.
His statement came in the packed courtroom of Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr. Nearly 100 people sat in the gallery or stood along the walls. The jury was to begin deliberating today on whether Tirado should get the death penalty, life in prison, or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Tirado read from two sheets of yellow legal paper during his five-minute statement and seldom looked at the jury. Some jurors looked solemn; others looked away.
He told them that he hadn't seen his young son in more than a year and wanted to build a relationship with the boy.
"I love my mother and father, my sisters, my brothers, my wife and my son very much, and I know they love me because they have stood by me throughout this trial," he said.
Tirado said he could accept being in prison for the rest of his life because he could continue to play a part in the lives of his family.
"I want the chance to become a better person in prison so that my son can know me as a better person than I am today," he said. "I want to try to be a good person."
He continued to cry after he finished his statement and turned away from the jury to go back to his seat beside his defense lawyers. As he approached the defense table, he exclaimed, "Oh God, help me."
Later, in his closing argument, assistant state's attorney Timothy G. Wolf asked the jury to impose the death penalty. He said Tirado must be held accountable for his actions early March 29, 1990, when he shot Trooper Wolf in his police cruiser during a traffic stop.
Another Bronx man, Francisco Rodriguez, 21, accompanied Tirado and also is charged with murder in the incident. He is being held in Virginia on his conviction on other charges and will be tried later for Trooper Wolf's murder.
Timothy Wolf held enlarged color photographs of the trooper to the jury. One of the photos showed a gunshot wound to the mouth, anothershowed a gunshot to the right cheek and a third showed the trooper slumped over the wheel of his car.
"What mercy did Trooper Wolf receive?" the prosecutor asked.
The prosecutor asked the jury not to be swayed by statements from Tirado and defense attorney Mark A. Van Bavel.
"It will be your duty to make a reasoned decision, guided not by emotion, but by the framework of the law," Timothy Wolf said.
Yet, he reminded the jury that the trooper's death has affected the lives of his family. He read parts of their victim-impact statements that are being submitted to the jury for deliberation.
Trooper Wolf's parents wrote that the death has deprived them of the daily visits they had been accustomed to receiving from their son and the work he would do around their house. They also have not seen their three grandchildren -- Wolf's children -- as often, they wrote.
Virginia "Ginni" Wolf, the trooper's wife, recently wrote that she remained plagued by the murder 16 months later and that she was reminded of her late husband by songs on the radio and commercials on television. She said the death particularly has affected her 15-year-old son, whose personality has changed so much that she hardly recognizes him.
"His attitude now seems to be 'my father proved that everything he has achieved can all disappear in a moment,' " she wrote. "Sadly, he has a point."
Van Bavel, in his closing argument, asked the jury to sentence Tirado to prison, saying that the defendant, a former trainee at the NewYork Transit Authority police, had an admirable past. He said Tirado wanted to become a Guardian Angel at age 15 to help people. He said Tirado's father talked him out of that.
Van Bavel asked the jury to allow Tirado's family to hear his voice and receive letters from him. He said Tirado could serve a purpose in prison by convincing young offenders that there is no future in crime.