Cop-killer gets life in prison

"I'm angry and I'm frustrated," said Officer John Pawlowski's widow, Kim (second from left), holding son John III.
"I'm angry and I'm frustrated," said Officer John Pawlowski's widow, Kim (second from left), holding son John III.
Posted: November 09, 2010

FOR THE SECOND TIME this year, the trial of a convicted Philadelphia cop-killer ended with a deadlocked jury, resulting in a sentence of life imprisonment without parole rather than the death penalty.

Rasheed Scrugs, who on Oct. 21 pleaded guilty to murdering Officer John Pawlowski, 25, learned his fate at 2:50 p.m yesterday, when the jury forewoman announced the deadlock on the fifth day of deliberations.

A death sentence in Pennsylvania requires a unanimous decision by a jury.

With a look of relief on his face, Scrugs, 35, glanced over his shoulder at his mother and other family members seated in the second row.

Across the aisle, the officer's widow, Kimberly Pawlowski, appeared nearly inconsolable. Common Pleas Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes reached out to the young mother, telling her that her husband was a hero and that it is because of men like him that she chooses to live in the city.

"No matter what [the jury] said, it wasn't going to fix it. It wasn't going to give you back your best friend, your husband," Hughes said softly.

"I pray for your peace, and I pray for that gorgeous little boy," she said, referring to John Pawlowski III, born after his father's death.

Kimberly Pawlowski emerged from the Criminal Justice Center carrying her son - and carrying wrath for Scrugs, who gunned down her husband at Broad Street and Olney Avenue on Feb. 13, 2009.

"I'm angry and I'm frustrated - disappointed," she said. "Justice was not served. My husband is nine feet in the ground, and he gets to breathe another breath of life. My son doesn't have a choice to call his father on the phone.

"I hope he spends the rest of his life tortured by what he did to Johnny."

Pawlowski said she was finished talking, then added: "They should throw the death penalty out in Pennsylvania, because it's pointless."

Deputy District Attorney Edward McCann, who tried the case with Assistant District Attorney Jacqueline Coelho, said he also was disappointed because the evidence supporting a death sentence was overwhelming.

"We got a fair trial in this case," he said. "We had every opportunity to put our case on, and we got every opportunity for the jury to consider it and deliberate. It didn't come out the way we wanted it to. That's the way it happens sometimes."

Defense attorneys David Rudenstein and Lee Mandell told the jury during the penalty hearing that Scrugs - a North Philadelphia parolee and father of four - deserved mercy because he had pleaded guilty, has low intelligence, was poorly raised and was addicted to PCP, the drug he smoked the night of the murder.

"Lee Mandell and David Rudenstein are very grateful there was a deadlock, very grateful for a life sentence," Rudenstein said. "It was a very difficult case, and our sympathies go out to the victim's family."

"It's a situation where, unfortunately, nobody wins," Mandell said. "Mr. Scrugs is going to spend the rest of his life in jail thinking about what he did and the mistake that he made."

In August, Hughes sentenced Levon Warner and Eric Floyd to life in prison without parole after a jury failed to reach a unanimous decision on the death penalty. The defendants participated in the May 2008 murder of police Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski, 39.

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