Prosecutor Expresses Frustration Over Governor’s Call to Abolish Death Penalty – Shares Story of Gunned Down Troopers in 2014

This story is out of our area, but it really paints a clear picture of the horror that could happen anytime anywhere. This is written by Prosecutor Ray Tonklin who tried this case.

🔵🔵Pennsylvania Should Retain the Death Penalty for the Intentional Killing of a Police Officer🔵🔵

In the early morning hours of September 13, 2014, my phone rang. I answered. On the other end of the phone was a county emergency dispatcher informing me that the State Police were requesting me because two state troopers had been shot at the Blooming Grove Barracks of the Pennsylvania State Police.

I quickly dressed and headed to a local church about ¾ of a mile from the barracks. This was center of operations for the State Police, as the barracks had been vacated with the sniper still loose in the woods. Upon entering the church, I observed several troopers in the pews with grim looks on their faces. I was informed that two troopers had been shot outside the barracks. Corporal Bryon Dickson was shot as he was leaving the barracks to head home. As he laid helpless on the ground he was shot again. Trooper Alex Douglass was shot when he moved to aid Corporal Dickson about ninety seconds after Corporal Dickson was initially shot. Both were shot because they were uniformed State Troopers.

With members of the State Police I traveled to the barracks in an armored vehicle to observe the scene. The observation of a murder scene is vital to any prosecutor who will later describe the scene to a jury. Just inside the inside the door from the lobby of the barracks lay Corporal Dickson. He had been taken from the outside of the barracks where he was shot by fellow troopers who bravely risked their life in an futile attempt to safe Corporal Dickson.

Forty-eight days later Eric Matthew Frein was arrested having been charged with the murder of Corporal Dickson and the shooting of Trooper Douglass who nearly perished from his wounds. Eric Frein stood trial before a jury. The jury of twelve unanimously convicted Frein of charges including murder and terrorism. The jury then heard additional evidence and determined that a sentence of death was the appropriate punishment.

Now Governor Shapiro, with his call to abolish the death penalty, would release Frein from death row and into general prison population. In general population Frein would be allowed out of his cell for most of the day. During this time he will be able to play chess or checkers, play sports such as softball, football or basketball. On sunny days he can enjoy basking in the radiant sun without fear of sunburn because he would be able to purchase sunscreen at the commissary. Frein can even purchase ice cream to satisfy his sweet tooth.

Meanwhile Tiffany Dickson, the widow of Corporal Dickson bears the burden of his loss and his two sons struggle to cope without their father. Trooper Douglass has undergone countless surgeries, suffered the loss of his lower leg and has a service dog, Peter, to assist him both physically and emotionally.

The decision to impose a sentence of the death penalty is left to the sound judgment of twelve citizens called to serve as jurors. There is little doubt they would rather not. However, they dutifully perform their service as jurors and make their decision under the guidance of law in our unique system of justice here in America. Overtime the death penalty has withstood constitutional scrutiny and deemed constitutionally an appropriate sentence in cases of intentional murder.

There are times that murder is so heinous, so calculating, so evil, that justice is rightfully served by the imposition of the death penalty. One of these times is the intentional murder of a police officer.

We have seen three officers killed by gunfire here in Pennsylvania in the last six weeks Each officer doing their duty to protect their community when they were slain. While each police officer pledges to lay down their life in service of others, it is the law that protects them. To provide that feeling of protection, Pennsylvania should retain the death penalty.


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