The mother of convicted murderer Eric Joseph Tirado broke down on the witness stand today as she pleaded for his life, imploring Howard County jurors not to sentence him to death for killing a Maryland state trooper.
"Please don't give him that, oh, my God!" wept Mary Tirado, when asked by defense lawyer Mark Van Bavel what she thought about the death penalty for her son.
And Michael Tirado, the convicted murderer's father, vowed that, "If I could take his place, I would sit right there. . . . This is my life, my kids."
"I don't wish that on nobody, to destroy a person," said the father, speaking of the death penalty. "If he did what he did, punish him, don't take his life."
As he walked from the witness stand, a weeping Michael Tirado threw his arms around his son and said, "I love you!" He was pulled away by a sheriff's deputy.
Meanwhile, Tirado's elder sister, Yvette, said society would be better served by putting her brother in prison than by executing him.
"I would use my brother as an example for my children," she said. "I would take them up there and let them speak to him."
Testimony came on the second day of the sentencing hearing in the case of Tirado, the 27-year-old New York City resident convicted last Thursday of shooting Cpl. Theodore D. Wolf, a Maryland State Police trooper, in March 1990.
The Circuit Court jury yesterday heard from the prosecution, which said aggravating circumstances in the shooting were TC sufficient to bring a death sentence. Tirado also could be sentenced to life in prison without parole or life with the possibility of parole.
The state submitted emotional written statements from Wolf's survivors, who apparently will not address the jury directly.
Circuit Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr. said the jury could begin deliberating late today or Monday morning.
The victim impact statements, not released to the public, were written by Wolf's widow, Virginia, and his parents, Leroy and Jane.
But part of Virginia Wolf's statement was read in court Wednesday. "I speculate on the pain he must have felt as he sat there dying and how long a period of time elapsed before it was finally over," she wrote.
In their testimony today, Tirado's family described an introverted young man who joined the New York Police Academy in hopes of becoming a transit officer, over his family's objections.
"I really didn't want him to be a police because I was scared because they were killing too many policemen at the time," Mary Tirado told jurors. "But he wanted to do it so bad."
Tirado's mother testified that her son did well in the academy for several months, but ran into problems with an instructor, who her son said "pushed him around."
"He called me up, 'Mom, I can't take this no more. This guy's always pushing me, I can't take it no more.' I said, 'Eric, leave it, resign.' "
After leaving the academy, "he changed," she said, talking back to his father and going out at night with his friends.
"I would say, 'Eric, please be careful,' " she recalled. "Sometimes he would not come home."
Tirado's mother cried throughout her hour-long testimony. While she testified, Tirado turned his chair away from the witness stand and kept his head bowed.
After the testimony, Tirado's mother walked up to the defense attorney and said, "Can I kiss my son?" The lawyer replied, "No."
In his statements yesterday, prosecutor Michael Rexroad said evidence from the five-week trial showed Tirado fired the two shots that killed Wolf. He said the prosecution proved several aggravating circumstances -- required for the death penalty -- including that Wolf was killed while on duty and in the course of a robbery: the theft of his citation book, in which he was writing up a speeding ticket for Tirado.
Tirado was convicted of first-degree murder, robbery with a deadly weapon and use of a handgun during the crimes after about five hours of jury deliberations.
"The aggravating circumstances, without question, outweigh the mitigating circumstances," Rexroad said. "The verdict of death is the only appropriate sentence in this case."
Tirado's defense lawyer cited as mitigating circumstances that Tirado has not been previously convicted of a violent crime and his client's age. It is unlikely that Tirado will pose a future danger to society -- another mitigator, he said.
"His society will never reach beyond whatever the Maryland Division of Correction decides -- the South Wing of the Maryland Penitentiary," said Van Bavel, pointing to his client. "Will he present a danger to that society?"
Tirado elected yesterday to let the jury, rather than the judge, decide his fate.
The sentencing hearing is Maryland's first to use victim impact statements since 1987. The U.S. Supreme Court last month reversed a 4-year-old precedent, set in a Maryland death row case, which had forbidden victim impact evidence in sentencing for capital crimes.
Wolf, who had three sons, was shot twice in the face as he sat in his cruiser on Interstate 95 near Jessup. He had stopped Tirado and Francisco Rodriguez, 21, for speeding. Rodriguez will be tried later.