Powell attorneys appeal death sentence

An appeals process has begun for 24-year-old Derrick Powell, the man who was convicted in February 2011 of fatally shooting Georgetown police officer Chad Spicer on Sept. 1, 2009.

Last February, a jury found Powell to be guilty of the first-degree murder of Spicer, as well as resisting arrest, first-degree assault and reckless endangerment, and other charges related to the incident. Following the penalty phase of his trial, the jury recommended that Powell be sentenced to death, on a 7-5 vote.

Powell’s attorneys, public defenders Bernard J. O’Donnell, Nicole M. Walker and Santino Ceccotti, filed a motion earlier this month for the required appeals trial in the death-penalty case to be moved outside Sussex County, arguing that the publicity the trial received put their client at a disadvantage.

The motion argues that the “inflammatory and sensationalized” media coverage and interest in the case caused the jury pool to be biased against Powell, giving him an unfair trial.

They went on to argue that the police investigation was poorly conducted and that detectives should have tested the clothing worn by Luis Flores, one of the other two men who were with Powell the night of the shooting.

The motion also argued that Superior Court Judge T. Henley Graves, who heard the trial, erred when he gave the jury’s 7-5 recommendation of death “great weight” in his decision to sentence Powell to death. It goes on to say that Graves did not instruct the jury that they could consider a second-degree murder charge, as opposed to the first-degree murder charge upon which he was convicted.

An appeal to the state Supreme Court is automatic in all death-penalty cases. Arguments for the appeal could be heard as early as April.