Jurors on Thursday spent several hours deciding whether to recommend death or life in prison for an Akron man accused of executing four people during a robbery last year.
Derrick Brantley, 22, did not take the stand to offer an unsworn statement during the four-day mitigation hearing that ended earlier Thursday in Summit County Common Pleas Court.
Ohio law allows defendants to speak to jurors during the sentencing phase of death penalty cases, and often times, those facing death plead for mercy.
In addition, Brantley’s defense attorneys waived closing arguments in a strategic legal maneuver designed to block prosecutors from urging jurors to recommend a death sentence.
The move came when Assistant Summit County Prosecutor Brian LoPrinzi waived the first portion of his closing arguments. Defense attorney John Greven immediately waived his one and only opportunity to address jurors.
Greven added — in earshot of jurors — that he was waiving his chance because prosecutors never spoke nor asked for the death penalty. The maneuver stopped prosecutors from giving their rebuttal argument, a time the state usually uses to give a more emphatic plea to jurors to recommend a death sentence.
After a lengthy sidebar with Judge Mary Margaret Rowlands, LoPronzi was permitted to make a brief statement to jurors telling them that the state does want them to recommend death.
Jurors last week found Brantley guilty of multiple counts of aggravated murder for fatally shooting Ronald Roberts, 24; Kem Rashad Delaney, 23; Maria Nash, 19; and Kiana Welch, 19.
All four were found April 18, 2013, inside a Kimlyn Circle townhouse in the Chapel Hill area of Akron. Each suffered multiple gunshot wounds to the head.
During the trial, prosecutors told jurors that robbery was the motive.
Brantley also was convicted of aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary and kidnapping. He did not testify.
Prosecutors said Brantley and a co-defendant targeted the residence in the early morning hours to rob Delaney and Roberts of heroin and cash.
The women arrived at the townhouse before the suspects left, and entered what prosecutors termed a “death trap.” Like Roberts and Delaney, the women were ordered to the basement and shot execution style.
Co-defendant Deshanon Haywood, 22, is scheduled for trial next month.
During Thursday’s sentencing hearing, jurors heard from relatives of Brantley who pleaded for a life sentence.
They also heard from a psychiatrist who said Brantley, whose IQ tested in the 80s, suffers from post traumatic stress disorder stemming from his upbringing. His father was murdered shortly before his birth. His stepfather, who, along with his mother, raised Brantley, was murdered when Brantley was in fourth grade.
Jurors can choose between death, or life in prison, either without parole or parole possible after 25 or 30 years. Their decision must be unanimous.
Rowlands can accept their recommendation or lessen the penalty. She cannot impose death if jurors do not recommend that sentence.
Deliberations began about 1:30 p.m. and were halted about 8 p.m.