Killer cries out to Chuck Cassidy's grieving widow: 'I APOLOGIZE'

DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff photographer
DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff photographer
Posted: November 19, 2009

JOHN "JORDAN" LEWIS, for the first time yesterday, spoke with Judy Cassidy, the widow of the Philadelphia police officer whom he admitted shooting to death during a doughnut-shop holdup two years ago.

"I apologize, Mrs. Cassidy," a weeping Lewis blurted out in court just as Cassidy completed five minutes of emotional testimony during Lewis' capital murder trial.

Cassidy did not respond.

But Lewis' breach of protocol appeared to catch Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Minehart and others in the packed courtroom off guard. Minehart ordered Lewis and the jury escorted from the room for several minutes while he conferred in private with Lewis' two attorneys and two prosecutors.

Attorneys for both sides rested their cases after the proceedings resumed, clearing the way for their closing arguments to the jury this morning. Defense attorneys Michael Coard and Bernard Siegel called no witnesses to the stand, and Lewis, 23, did not testify.

He pleaded guilty last week to a charge of "general murder" of Officer Chuck Cassidy on Oct. 31, 2007. He now faces possible sentences of life in prison without parole or death by injection.

If the jury finds him guilty of premeditated, first-degree murder, it could sentence him to either life or death; but if the jury convicts him of second-degree murder, the sentence would be life.

Judy Cassidy, who has been supported by her three children, relatives, friends and police officers, was the last witness to take the stand, capping five days of testimony from more than 30 witnesses called by Assistant District Attorneys Edward Cameron and Jennifer Selber.

Her voice filled with anguish, Cassidy spoke of the last days of her 54-year-old husband's life, a time filled with family, food and excitement over the coming of Halloween.

There was a big family dinner at her sister's home that final Sunday, after which the couple's daughters, Kate and Colby, returned to college, never to see their father again, she recalled, crying.

On Monday, elbow macaroni and meatballs was the final meal that the couple and their son, John, who is in high school, shared together.

The next day, Halloween, a day Chuck Cassidy always dressed up for, she called him at 9:39 a.m. on his new and first-ever cell phone. She asked if he knew anyone on the police force who could check on some strange activity in their Northeast neighborhood.

During the conversation, he told her that he would be attending a plaque-dedication ceremony for two fallen officers.

She thought he'd be safe there. "He was happy, he was healthy, he was strong that day," she testified. "I said, 'Be careful.' "

Later that morning, she saw a television news flash about the shooting of an off-duty police officer at a West Oak Lane Dunkin' Donuts. It couldn't be Chuck; he was on duty, she thought.

Then, an officer knocked on her front door to take her to Albert Einstein Medical Center. Her husband of 26 years died there the next day, having never regained consciousness.

After her testimony, she returned to her seat, where Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey sat with her and her children.

In other testimony, Officer John Canon, of the police Firearms Identification Unit, testified that the bullet that Lewis fired into Officer Cassidy's brain was designed to expand on impact and remain in the intended target without passing through.

The jacketed hollow-point bullet was the only one of its kind in Lewis' Hi-Point 9 mm handgun. The seven other bullets in the gun were full-metal jacketed, which do less damage to an intended target, Canon said.

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