Local News

Final arguments set in Devega capital murder trial

Posted May 21
Updated May 23

Armond Devega waits May 20, 2014, in a Wake County courtroom prior to the beginning of testimony in the sentencing phase of his capital murder trial. Devega, 32, possibly faces the death penalty after a jury on May 19, 2014, found him guilty of first-degree murder in the April 10, 2008, shooting death of Stephanie Powell Anderson.

— Attorneys in the capital murder trial of Armond Devega will present final arguments in the case at 10:30 a.m. Thursday before jurors begin deliberating whether the 32-year-old should receive the death penalty for the murder of a woman shot during a convenience store robbery in Raleigh.

Devega was found guilty Monday on numerous charges stemming from a series of crimes in 2008, including first-degree murder for the April 10, 2008, shooting death of Stephanie Powell Anderson.

Anderson, 39, was ambushed by Devega as she arrived to work at the Wilco-Hess on Trawick Road and, after begging for her life, was shot when she couldn't open the store's time-locked safe.

Defense attorneys say Devega, who denies any role in the crime, has a deficit in the frontal lobe of his brain, which affects his ability to make good decisions, maintain self-control and appreciate the consequences of his actions.

They blame the deficit on traumatic events in Devega's childhood, which included chronic physical abuse at the hands of his father, a Vietnam War veteran who went untreated for post-traumatic stress disorder for decades after the war.

Wake County prosecutors on Wednesday called the final witness in the 13-week trial, a forensic psychologist who disputed the defense experts' findings.

Mark Hazelrigg testified that he neither observed symptoms nor heard anything from Devega that would suggest post-traumatic stress disorder other than a comment that sad movies reminded Devega of his childhood and that he had to fight to hold back tears.

Instead, Hazelrigg said, he diagnosed Devega with anti-social personality disorder and poly-substance abuse because of his use of cocaine, ecstasy, marijuana and alcohol.

In one of their final attempts to persuade jurors against the death penalty, the defense, earlier Wednesday, offered testimony from James Aiken, a former warden and corrections consultant who described what life in prison without the possibility of parole would be like for Devega.

"The world passes you by and you are reduced to the lowest common denominator," Aiken said. "It's not easy, and it's very dangerous, and the fear of something happening is continuous."

Prison life, he added, is nothing like how the entertainment industry portrays it. Things most people take for granted – recreation, books, TV – are tools used to help control inmates.

"That television is a management tool that's just as important as an M-16 on a gun tower," Aiken said. "It's a control mechanism, not an entertainment mechanism. I can take it away or I can give it."

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