Surprise guilty plea in Philly officer's death

AP News
Posted: Nov 12, 2009 2:30 PM

A chubby-cheeked young defendant surprised a packed courtroom Thursday by pleading guilty to the Halloween 2007 murder of a Philadelphia police officer during a doughnut store robbery.

Now the jury must decide if the slaying was premeditated or a panicked reaction. A premeditated murder conviction could subject the defendant to the death penalty.

Officer Chuck Cassidy is remembered as a warm, dedicated community servant. The 54-year-old was raising three children with his high school sweetheart and made daily rounds at small businesses on his beat.

Defendant John Lewis of Philadelphia is the 23-year-old son of a corrections officer.

Prosecutors say he grew increasingly brazen _ and violent _ over a half-dozen store robberies during a six-week crime spree.