Jury weighing death penalty for Pittsburgh cop killer

PITTSBURGH Mon Jun 27, 2011 11:09am EDT

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PITTSBURGH (Reuters) -- A jury on Monday began deliberating the fate of a Pennsylvania man who faces the death penalty after being convicted of killing three Pittsburgh police officers in 2009.

Richard Poplawski, 24, was found guilty over the weekend of murder and other charges for fatally shooting officers Eric Kelly, Stephen Mayhle and Paul Sciullo at his mother's house in the city's Stanton Heights neighborhood.

His mother called authorities after arguing with him on April 4, 2009. Poplawski was arrested after being wounded during a three-hour standoff with police, according to court documents.

She said her son had been discharged from the Marine Corps for assaulting his drill sergeant and had been stockpiling guns and ammunition because he believed police were no longer able to protect society because of the economic collapse.

A jury on Saturday found Poplawski guilty of three counts of murder and 22 related charges after six days of testimony, said Mike Manko, a spokesman for the Allegheny County district attorney's office.

The penalty phase of the trial began on Monday and was expected to last two to three days, he said. Prosecutors planned to call family members as witnesses, he said.

Poplawski's attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.

The jury of seven men and five women was transported from Dauphin County to avoid the influence of pretrial publicity.

(Reporting by Daniel Lovering; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Greg McCune)

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