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Powell gets death sentence in Spicer slaying

Cape Gazette of Lewes, Delaware

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Defense: The fight is not over yet

Family and friends of slain Georgetown Patrolman Chad Spicer shared hugs and smiles, and prosecutors spoke willingly to reporters gathered outside the Sussex County Courthouse in Georgetown. Family, friends and attorneys of Derrick Powell, the 24-year-old man convicted of Spicer's murder, were decidedly more tight-lipped. A packed courtroom of about 80 people sat silently as Judge T. Henley Graves issued a death sentence for Powell at 9:30 a.m., May 20. "He is explosive, he is violent, he is a dangerous person," Graves said. The judge spoke for about five minutes and was gone.

No reaction from Powell could be seen as he was immediately escorted out of the courtroom.

After issuing Powell a total of 82 years for seven counts against him, Graves denied the defense's motion to declare the death penalty unconstitutional. For Powell's final count of murder in the first degree, Graves said the aggravating circumstances surrounding the murder outweigh the mitigating circumstances.

Though Powell is a young man, Graves said, he is a self-centered person who defied all authority and chose a life of crime. "Powell's own decisions as to his criminal lifestyle, disregard of others and use of firearms weigh heavily in aggravation," Graves said. "The sentence therefore is death."

Police say Powell shot Spicer near the intersection of North

King and Rosa streets in Georgetown after a brief car chase Sept. 1, 2009. Powell was convicted of first-degree murder Feb. 9 by a jury that later recommended the death sentence for Powell by a 7-5 margin.

Bailiffs immediately silenced an attempt at applause from one side of the courtroom. The sounds of heavy breathing and weeping saturated the opposite side of gallery. "Let me out of here," commanded Tina Durham, Powell's mother, as she shoved her way out of the courtroom.

Powell's father, Joe Powell, kept his composure, but refused to speak to reporters after the sentencing. Noticeably absent was Powell's sister, Jessica Durham, who grew up side by side with Powell and testified in his defense during the penalty

phase of the trial in February. She had said he was her best friend.

Leaving the courthouse, Nako-ta Durham, another sister of Powell, yelled at no one in particular,"Killing our brother is not going to bring him back."

Spicer's parents, Ruth Ann and Norman Spicer, stood beside Attorney General Beau Biden outside the courthouse after the sentencing. Norman, red-faced, and Ruth Ann, who looked on the verge of tears, both managed to utter,"Justice was served."

Georgetown Police Chief William Topping said Powell deserves the death penalty. "He had a lot longer of a time to contemplate what's going to happen to him than Chad had to contemplate what happened to him," Topping said. "He has no redeeming qualities, and he has no

business out here in society."

Prosecutor Paula Ryan, speaking to reporters for the first time about the Powell trial, said she tried to handle the case like any other. "There was additional pressure, obviously, because of the nature of the case," she said. Defense attorney Dean Johnson paused only to say he was not going to speak about the case before he retired to the Public Defender's Office. After the crowd had largely cleared, around 1030 am, defense attorney Stephanie Tsantes emerged from the courthouse.

"The fight is not over; it's just beginning," Tsantes said. She said it was a sad day for Powell, but he put on a brave face. When the case is appealed, Tsantes said, she hopes the Supreme Court of Delaware will spare Powell's life.

Original Publication Date: May 24, 2011

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