Father testifies about his grief over slain son

February 01, 2002|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

The father of a Hunt Valley restaurant manager who was killed during a Christmastime robbery asked a Baltimore County judge yesterday to keep his "unbearable suffering" in mind when deciding whether his son's killer should be sentenced to death.

James W. Stambaugh Sr. looked at his son's photograph and told Circuit Judge Alexander Wright Jr. that he still contemplates suicide a year after the killing.

"I'm surprised that I haven't killed myself, because I don't feel like living any more," Stambaugh told Wright. "He was not only my only son, he was my best friend."

Wright might decide today whether to sentence Courtney D. Bryant to death for killing 21-year-old James Stambaugh Jr., who was fatally beaten Dec. 23, 2000, after the Burger King had closed for the night.

Bryant, 19, was convicted Dec. 11 of first-degree murder, armed robbery and conspiracy.

Yesterday, Bryant's lawyers argued for a life sentence because Bryant was 18 at the time of the killing and had no criminal record. They also said experts do not consider him a threat to society.

Assistant State's Attorneys Mickey Norman and Marsha Russell said Bryant deserves to be put to death because he planned the robbery and struck the blows that killed Stambaugh.

Prosecutors said Bryant decided to kill Stambaugh after realizing the manager recognized him. Bryant had worked at the Burger King but was fired for being absent from work.

Defense attorney Timothy Gunning argued that the state's case was based largely on the testimony of co-defendant Breon C. English, a 16-year-old who struck a deal with prosecutors.

Gunning acknowledged the tragedy but pleaded for mercy.

"If you impose the death penalty in this case, you will be wreaking the same harm on [Bryant's] family," Gunning told the judge..

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