Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala announced Thursday that his office will seek the death penalty in the case against Calvin Crew, the man accused of murdering Christina Spicuzza, the local mom of four who was driving for Uber at the time of her death.
Crew has been charged with criminal homicide, robbery, and tampering with evidence.
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In February, Spicuzza’s body was found in a wooded area of Monroeville. She had one gunshot wound to her head and was wearing a face mask.
Spicuzza didn’t have any identification on her, not even a cellphone. Through her tattoos, homicide detectives were able to determine she was the woman whose fiancé reported her missing two nights earlier.
The night she went missing, she was working as an Uber driver.
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In March, dashcam footage of the Uber ride was shown in court. It shows Crew holding a gun to Spicuzza’s head while she pleads for her life.
Spicuzza is heard in the video pleading for her life as she drove Crew around for an hour with the gun pressed on her neck at times. At one point, he can be seen holding the gun to the base of Spicuzza’s skull and holding her ponytail. Police also said Crew tried to access Spicuzza’s banking accounts.
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Police said Crew took the camera, but the authorities were eventually able to recover it.
Lawyer Blaine Jones isn’t representing either party, but provided context on the District Attorney’s decision to seek the death penalty. He says Calvin Crew would first have to be convicted of premediated murder, before going into the sentencing phase. To be eligible for the death penalty, the jury must find at least one of 18 aggravating circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt.
“An aggravated circumstance is anything such as the person is tortured or there’s a felony murder that happened,” Jones tells Channel 11. “Felony murder is usually murder 2, but that’s used as an aggravated circumstance in this case. An aggravated circumstance could also be if the victim is a police officer, firefighter or protected class of individuals.”
There are also eight mitigating circumstances the jury has to consider, but they’re not held to the same standard as aggravating circumstances.
“Say the person has a mental health issue or they’re under duress at the time or of a certain age or they don’t have a history of crime,” Jones adds.
For there to be a mitigating circumstance, the jury must find there’s greater than 50% chance the claim is true. And if that outweighs an aggravated circumstance, the death penalty is off the table.
“I think it’s an uphill battle potentially for the defendant, based theoretically on what the statute says,” Jones adds. “There was a robbery at play when the killing happened, or even someone may argue that this was torture because my understanding is the victim begged for her life.”
Only a jury can examine the dashcam footage, video evidence and cell phone records to make their decision about Calvin Crew’s fate. Blaine Jones says Crew’s lawyer will likely try to negotiate a plea deal with the District Attorney, so if convicted, Crew would be looking at life in prison, not a death sentence.
There has also been a moratorium on executions since 2015, under Governor Tom Wolf. The Governor cited executions disproportionately affecting poor people and minorities.
Only three people have been executed in Pennsylvania since 1976. The most recent execution was in 1999.
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