Eric Matthew Frein exits the Pike County Courthouse with police officers after an arraignment in Milford
By Joe McDonald
MILFORD, Pa. (Reuters) - The question of whether Eric Frein should be put to death for murdering a state trooper in a 2014 sniper attack that launched a massive manhunt went to a Pennsylvania jury following closing arguments on Wednesday.
The same jury at Pike County Courthouse last week convicted Frein, 33, of first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer for fatally shooting Corporal Bryon Dickson II, 38, outside the Blooming Grove barracks.
Frein, who for weeks evaded capture following the attack, was also convicted of other charges, including terrorism and the attempted murder of Trooper Alex Douglass, 34, who was shot and critically wounded as he rushed to Dickson's aid.
Frein is a survivalist, a person skilled in outdoor living who aims to survive a catastrophe or dramatic event such as nuclear war or revolution.
At trial, prosecutors told the jury that he harbored anti-government views and the sniper attack was aimed at sparking a "revolution."
In closing arguments in the trial's death penalty phase on Wednesday, Ray Tonkin, the Pike County district attorney, repeatedly referred to Frein as "that murderer over there." He said Frein, 33, methodically planned the ambush and deserved the death penalty.
Tonkin also played a recorded telephone conversation Frein had with his mother from jail about 20 days after he was captured in which Frein can be heard discussing how he wanted to sell his story to the media after the trial. Frein can be heard repeatedly laughing on the recording.
Michael Weinstein, the lead defense lawyer, said Frein was the victim of a dysfunctional family who was influenced by anti-police views held by his father, a retired Army major.
After the shooting, Frein eluded a 48-day manhunt through the dense forests of the Pocono Mountains, about 100 miles (160 km) north of Philadelphia.
The $11 million search, which put the community on edge for weeks, ended when he was captured by U.S. marshals outside an abandoned airplane hangar near Tannersville, Pennsylvania.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Peter Cooney)