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Why Chuck Cassidy's killer, John "Jordan" Lewis should be spared from the death penalty

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The opinions expressed in the following article do not necessarily reflect those of the staff at Philly2Philly.com

I’ll never forget the day police officer Chuck Cassidy died. I was working at La Salle University  when we heard the chopping noise of helicopter Slain Philadelphia Police Officer Chuck Cassidyblades overhead. One of my co-workers checked one of the local TV websites and we heard about the tragedy.

This was shocking because it was so local. I’ve been to the Dunkin’ Donuts where he was gunned down. I used to eat every week at the Oak Lane Diner which is practically right next door. Since the killer was on the run, our campus was immediately shut down.

We soon learned that Chuck Cassidy was the officer who was gunned down. He was well-known around La Salle; the campus fell under the purview of his precinct, and he frequently was seen patrolling the school. And Erin, one of my department’s student workers, was in tears. Her best friend growing up was Cassidy’s daughter. She was considered a member of the family.

I’m pretty conservative politically. I voted for McCain over Obama. I think our inevitable “public option” health care overhaul will be a complete fiasco. Ronald Reagan is one of my heroes. And I can somewhat, not completely, but somewhat, understand Sarah Palin’s  appeal. And because of my political leanings, one would think that I’m in favor of the death penalty, particularly for an admitted cop killer.

But I’m not. Largely, this is due to religious beliefs; I’m Catholic in more than just name only, and I think that preserving human life is of the utmost importance. (Predictably, this also makes me pro-life.) I don’t think anyone has the right to kill another person and, except in the case of just war, I don’t think the state has the right to send one of its citizens to death.

On top of this, I think that John “Jordan” Lewis, Cassidy’s killer, is genuinely remorseful for what he did. When he was captured in Florida, he immediately confessed to the crime and apologized. He did the same when he was making his perp walk and was approached by the media. He did so in his official confession with the police department. He pled guilty without having striking a deal with the prosecutor’s office to spare his life. And he also repeatedly did so in the courtroom, making a personal appeal to Cassidy’s wife and children.

I truly, in my heart, do not think this was the standard case of a caught criminal begging for mercy. I think this was the most dramatic act in the life of a disadvantaged kid who made an awful series of life decisions that led him to robbing a Dunkin’ Donuts on Broad Street in the middle of the day. And, in an instant, he made the horrifying choice to pull the trigger at a police officer who was only opening a door.

Cassidy, his family, the Philadelphia Police Department and all it protects deserve justice for Lewis’ crime. No matter how remorseful he is, Lewis should stay behind bars for the rest of his life. But that doesn’t mean he should suffer an execution at the hands of a prison warden. If his life is a story, Lewis shooting Cassidy would be the climax. But the denouement should be him coming to terms with what he did and searching for ways to find peace within himself.

photo: www.kyw1060.com

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