Marco Perez to face the death penalty after 11 to 1 vote by jury

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — A Mobile County jury voted 11 to 1 in favor of the death penalty just one day after Marco Perez was found guilty of capital murder in the 2019 incident that left Mobile police officer Sean Tuder dead.

The decision comes just one day after Perez was found guilty on Thursday. The hearing for Perez’s sentence began Thursday afternoon right after he was found guilty of capital murder.

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“Well, of course, on behalf of Marco Perez, we’re extremely disappointed with the verdict,” said Perez’s defense attorney Dennis Knizley. “Not only of the verdict of capital murder, but also the death penalty.”

The prosecution argued for the jury to vote in favor of the death penalty, which requires 10 of the 12 jurors to vote in favor.

Perez’s family was seen weeping inside the courtroom while Marco’s sentence was read. Tuder’s family sat silently as they learned the fate of the convicted cop killer.

Marco showed little to no emotion while learning he will be put on death row, but he mouthed “love you” to his family as officers escorted him out of the courtroom.

“My heart goes out to the Tudor family,” Mobile County District Attorney Keith Blackwod. “They’ve lost they’ve lost a loved one. They’ve lost a son that served his country. He served this community. And, you know, that loss is unimaginable.”

Knizley explained he plans to appeal the case.

“He had an unfortunate interaction with a police officer who, of course, we can revisit that all we want, but he was in plain clothes,” Knizley explained. “He was his own car, and we saw how he approached him. And that results in a death sentence.”

Meanwhile, the defense pushed the jury to vote in favor of life in prison because he would ultimately still die in custody.

Perez, 24, was 19 when he killed Tuder at Peach Place Inn.

Defense witnesses

The defense brought six people to the stand to push for Perez to not be sentenced to death.

The first person was Francisco Perez, Marco’s father. He explained to the jury how he found out his son was accused of murdering a police officer. He showed pictures of his children when they were young and pleaded for his son’s life.

Francisco said he has seen his son grow since he was incarcerated five years ago.

“This kid is not who they’ve painted him to be,” he said.

Prosecutor Ashley Rich intervened and discussed Marco Perez faking his kidnapping and brought up his disciplinary record in school and his suspensions.

The defense then brought child psychologist Stephen Zieman, of Pensacola, to the stand via Zoom. He has seen and evaluated Marco Perez, spending 12.5 hours with him face-to-face issuing tests and getting to know him.

Zieman said Perez has ADHD, which can impact his judgment, and below-average verbal comprehension. He said it takes 25 years for the brain to fully develop, and Perez is only 24 and was 19 at the time of the incident.

The mother of Perez’s child, Savannah Brewer, also took the stand. Their son will be 5 years old in September.

“I look at my son, and I know his father deserves to be here,” she said.

Brewer said Perez is smart and has maintained a relationship with his son and his own family. She said she would visit him every day in prison regardless of his punishment.

Marco’s younger sister was brought to the stand, and she discussed her relationship with Marco.

She was cross-examined by prosecutor Ashley Rich. Marco’s younger sister, who was 12 at the time of the incident, said she didn’t remember how her parents were trying to get Marco to come home, and she didn’t remember much of the situation.

“My parents have worked very hard their whole life to give us everything we have,” she said.

Marco’s mother, Tiffany Perez, then came to the stand. She discussed what Marco was like as a child.

Tiffany Perez also said he struggled in school and was diagnosed with ADHD, but he worked very hard to get his GED. She said he got his first job when he was 17 or 18 years old but hasn’t been able to work since he was incarcerated.

Prosecutor Ashley Rich cross-examined Tiffany Perez.

“You did everything you could to get Marco to come home,” Rich said.

“I take blame!” Tiffany Perez said.

“I’m not trying to say you’re a bad mother; you’re a good mother,” Rich said.

Marco Perez’s grandmother, Paula Gushard, was the final person the defense called to the stand.

Gushard said she has a strong relationship with Marco and his child’s mother, Savannah Brewer.

The state’s rebuttal witness

The state’s loan rebuttal witness was Dr. Jessia Kirk of Infirmary Health at Thomas Hospital. She is a full-time hospital pediatrician.

Prosecutor Ashley Rich asked Dr. Kirk how the 19-year-old brain functions. She said they look at motor development and cognitive function.

She said children develop an internal conscious by age 6. And by age 12-15, children are able to think more maturely and make their own decisions.

“Children develop on a general timeline,” she said.

Criminal Defense Attorney Dennis Knizley cross-examined Dr. Kirk and said your brain doesn’t fully develop until your mid-20s.

Closing arguments

Prosecutor Madison Davis opened closing arguments on Friday.

“Selfishness vs. selflessness is what I think about when I think about what happened on January 20, 2019,” she said.

She described Marco Perez’s actions as “selfishness.”

She explained the state had to prove that the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating circumstances. She went on to say the capital offense was committed to avoid a lawful arrest or effect an escape from custody.

Davis said Perez murdered Sean Tuder because he was running from police and did not want to go back to jail.

She said Perez is a dangerous person and continued to express violent behaviors when he was incarcerated. She explained Perez would continue to assault and harm others if he were to be sentenced to life in prison because he would have nothing to lose.

Public Defender Ashley Cameron represented the defense in the closing argument.

Cameron said Perez would be one of the youngest to ever be sentenced to death row and that he will die in prison if he is given life in prison without parole.

She discussed how expert psychologists discuss how quickly the brain develops and that Marco has ADHD, leading to poor executive functioning and impulse control issues.

Cameron explained Perez hasn’t been punished for his other crimes and that he is a good kid who cares for his family, and they care for him.

She closed her portion saying the murder of Sean Tuder was not a thought-out plan, and Perez didn’t mean to kill anyone.

Prosecutor Ashley Rich closed the closing argument session for the state.

“It’s the right thing to do, but it’s not easy,” Rich said in regards to applying the death penalty.

She said Perez does not intend to become a better person and did not show any remorse. She explained having ADHD does not let anyone escape from criminal culpability.

What’s next for Marco Perez?

Judge Ben Brooks III is going to have another hearing on March 6 at 2 p.m. to discuss the procedure moving forward with the state and defense.

The sentencing hearing will take place on April 11 at 3 p.m. where Brooks will impose and finalize Perez’s actual punishment.

There was a legal issue raised regarding the jury’s decision.

In the current Alabama code, whatever the jury decides in a capital murder case is the final decision, and the judge couldn’t overrule it, so in this case Marco Perez would go straight to Holman’s Prison in Atmore and be put on death row.

Rich raised the issue after contacting the Attorney General’s Office saying that the judge has to impose the sentencing order.

Brooks had questions about how that would apply to this current case law, so that hearing is going to take place on March 6.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was updated to include statements and quotes from the state of Alabama and Marco Perez’s defense attorney.

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