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Police Rally After Judge Sets Aside Death Sentence

Police officers from the Columbus area held a brief vigil yesterday afternoon outside a bank where an officer was killed almost two years ago. The gathering came in response to a federal judge's decision last week to set aside the death sentence for the man convicted of murdering officer Bryan Hurst.

In March, a federal jury found defendant Daryl Lawrence guilty of the murder of off-duty police officer Bryan Hurst. Hurst was working as a guard at a branch of the Fifth Third Bank on East Broad Street when he was shot by Lawrence during an attempted robbery. According to fraternal order of police president Leif Bickel a death sentence is the appropriate punishment.

"If you kill an officer particularly in uniform, the sentence should be death in that case," Bickel said.

Lawrence did receive the death penalty - one of the eight counts against him. But he got a life sentence for another count. Last Thursday, U.S. District Judge Gregory Frost set aside the death sentence. One of Lawrence's attorney's, Kort Gatterdam, says jurors improperly applied mitigating and aggravating factors.

"When the jury decided that the mitigating factors did not outweigh the aggravating factors in Count 7, there was really the exact same aggravating and mitigating factors in Count 8. So there could be but one conclusion for Count 8 and that would have to be a life sentence also. And obviously the jury did not do that so the verdicts were legally inconsistent," Gatterdam said.

Another jury may re-sentence Daryl Lawrence. As dusk fell yesterday, several dozen police officers and sheriff's deputies lined the bank sidewalk. FOP president Leif Bickel told them that justice must prevail.

"We're also sending a message to the federal court not one of displeasure or anger but a message of unity on the part of the brothers and sisters in law enforcement as well as the need to do the right thing and resolve the case and carry out the sentence that was imposed."