Wake prosecutor: Devega's crimes were 'callous, cold'
Posted May 22, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — A Wake County prosecutor seeking the death penalty in the fatal shooting of a Raleigh convenience store manager told jurors that Armond Devega is callous, cold, has a disregard for others and that execution is the only just sentence in the 6-year-old murder case.
"He's going to beg you for compassion and mercy – traits each of you possess. They're positive traits, and he's counting on you because you're different than him," Assistant District Attorney Matt Lively said during closing arguments Thursday in the sentencing phase of Devega's 13-week trial.
"Stephanie Anderson begged for compassion and mercy – 'Please, Jesus. I swear on my life,' – and when she begged for compassion and mercy, you know what he said? 'I don't care.'"
Prosecutors say Devega ambushed Anderson, 39, early on the morning of April 10, 2008, as she opened a Wilco-Hess in north Raleigh and then shot her when she couldn't open the store's time-locked safe.
Devega, who served a five-year prison sentence for two armed robberies in 1999, got no money from the crime but took so much more from the mother of three that day, Assistant District Attorney Becky Holt said.
"He got her life. He robbed Stephanie Anderson and robbed her family and loved ones," Holt said.
After 23 hours of deliberation last week, the jury on Monday found Devega guilty of first-degree murder and robbery with a firearm in Anderson's death – along with a slew of other charges in a series of crimes during a nine-month period in 2008.
Jurors will begin deliberating Devega's punishment Friday morning.
Defense attorneys, during their closing arguments, agreed with Lively that Devega is different but said that's exactly why he doesn't deserve to die.
"His brain is damaged," attorney Phil Lane said, arguing that indisputable results of psychological tests and psychiatric evaluations show a significant deviation from the norm in Devega's frontal lobe.
That, Lane said, affects his ability to make good decisions, maintain self-control and appreciate the consequences of his actions.
The defense blames the deficit on traumatic childhood events – while Devega's brain was still developing – including chronic physical abuse at the hands of his father, a Vietnam War veteran who went untreated for post-traumatic stress disorder for decades.
Prosecutors, however, disagreed on the mental health diagnosis, saying Devega was able to hold a full-time job, attend college part-time and make good grades and have relationships. The crimes were carefully carried out, and Devega was calm and in control throughout them all.
"The behavior doesn't match up with the diagnosis the defendant needs and wants you to believe in order to save his life," Lively said, noting that Devega went to work two hours after Anderson's murder.
"That's callousness. That's a disregard for others, and that's a frightening ability to compartmentalize. That's planning. That's calculation – an exceptional degree of that," Lively added. "It doesn't fit with this frontal lobe, detached brain stuff that's been presented."
Defense attorney Phil Glover disagreed.
"I'm not telling you his brain doesn't work," he said. "I'm not telling you that his brain is broken. What I'm telling you is that he is not like other people."
Holt also told jurors that the state doesn't dispute Devega grew up in a violent home environment but that he was the person – not his father – who chose to commit the crimes.
"Don't let him convince you through his lawyers that he should not be held responsible," Holt said. "Don't let him put it on his father and say that, 'When I went in on April 10, that the choice to rob Stephanie Anderson was the result of my father's PTSD and the treatment that I received.'"
Lane concluded the daylong closings, saying Devega's life still has worth and that he can have a positive influence on the lives of other inmates.
"If he can prevent someone else from returning to prison, if he can teach someone to read who can't, there is value," Lane said.
He urged jurors to let Devega's death in prison be not at the hands of man but at the hands of God.
"Justice is never advanced in the taking of a human life," he said, quoting Martin Luther King Jr.'s late widow, Coretta Scott King. "Morality is never upheld by a legal murder."