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Convicted Mobile cop killer Marco Perez sentenced to death

By Brendan Kirby

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    Mobile, Alabama (WALA) — A jury on Friday sentenced convicted Theodore resident Marco Antonio Perez to death for the murder of Police Officer Sean Tuder five years ago.

The verdict, on an 11-1 vote, came after two days of testimony and evidence in the sentencing phrase of the trial the followed the jury’s guilty verdict in the capital murder case.

Mobile County District Attorney Keith Blackwood praised the verdict and said it sends a strong message.

“Sean Tuder put that badge on to protect and serve this community and for it, he got sentenced to death by Marco Perez,” he said. “We cannot tolerate that in our community, and we will not. Our police are vital to civilization. They’re vital to our community. And when the police get murdered, we’re gonna seek the death penalty.”

Defense attorney Dennis Knizley said it was an emotional decision for his client’s parents.

“Of course, they’re devastated,” he said. “You saw Mr. and Mrs. Perez in there. They’re good people; they’re hard-working people. You know, they had a young kid, 19 years old, that went what astray.”

Knizley said he believes Perez has some strong issues to raise on appeal, particularly related to the decision of Mobile County Circuit Judge Ben Brooks to allow evidence about unrelated bad acts, such as guns and cars that Perez had stolen. Prosecutors successfully argued that evidence was necessary to tell the story of him being on the run from police, which they argued was the motive for the shooting.

“It was … way too much,” Knizley said. “It was too prejudicial, and it should not have come before the jury. It made it very difficult for this jury to isolate that conduct from the conduct. He was actually on trial for.”

Coincidentally, Perez’s lawyer in a federal case related to the same incident asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday to take his appeal of the sentence in that case.

On Thursday, the jury found that Perez fatally shot the Mobile police officer at the Peach Place Inn apartments on Jan. 20, 2019. At the time, Perez was on the run from police after a federal warrant had been issued for his arrest after he skipped a meeting with his pretrial services officer on a gun charge. According to testimony, Tuder was at home in Daphne when he got a tip that Sunday that Perez was at the apartment complex off of Leroy Stevens Road in west Mobile.

After Thursday’s verdict, proceedings immediately shifted to the sentencing phase. Under Alabama law, the decision was solely in the hands of the jury. It required only seven of 12 jurors to sentence Perez to life without parole. But before even getting to that point, the jury unanimously had to find that prosecutors had proved at least one aggravating factor. The one they cited was killing a police officer to avoid arrest or effect an escape. The defense focused on the defendant’s age – 19 at the time – as a mitigating factor that the jury should consider.

This is a case of “selflessness vs. selfishness,” Mobile County Assistant District Attorney Madison Davis told jurors during her closing argument.

“That’s what comes to mind when I think of what happened Jan. 20, 2019,” she said.

Davis told jurors that they can consider the “copious amounts of evidence” that prosecutors presented during the guilt phase of the trial. That evidence demonstrated conclusively that Perez had ill intentions when he fired three shots from a stolen gun, Davis said.

“It was not because he was scared or fearful or provoked,” she said. “It was because he was on the run, and he was not going back to jail.”

Defense attorney Ashley Cameron focused on Perez’s age, 19 at the time of the shooting. She said it is an age when people’s decision-making skills are poor and added that Perez had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder on top of that.

“He was a teenager when he did this, not legally allowed to drink a beer but old enough for the state of Alabama to execute,” she said.

Added Cameron: “If he is sentenced to death today, he will be one of the youngest people on row.”

Prosecutors put on evidence violence and law-breaking that Perez has engaged in since the murder while locked up at Mobile County Metro Jail awaiting trial. That includes a pair of assaults, including one in which he ordered the victim to strip and then assaulted him when he refused. There was also testimony that Perez had a homemade metal “shank.”

Davis said the evidence shows Perez ahs “continued to wreak havoc on Metro Jail” and asked, “What would he do a to a prison guard who holds the key to his future?”

Prosecutors also called Tuder’s widow and others close to him to witness stand to describe the emotional trauma caused by his killing.

The defense countered with testimony from Perez’s parents and other relatives, along with the mother of his child.

The penalty phase also featured dueling expert witness testimony, with a defense psychiatrist testifying that the brain is not fully developed until about age 25. A prosecution expert witness testified that higher-level thinking begins in the mid-teenage years.

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