Flanked by his attorneys and with his life in the balance, convicted killer Frederick Dickerson told a three-judge panel yesterday that he had a tough childhood - then apologized to relatives of two people he murdered.
"To the families, the McCoy and McClaine families: What I did was wrong and I'm sorry," he said yesterday before wiping tears from his eyes. "For 23 years, I've been thinking about it. Every day I've been thinking about it. I wish I could take it back. I didn't mean it. I was lost."
The apology came after two days of testimony in Lucas County Common Pleas Court from relatives and doctors about Dickerson's past challenges and current health.
The hearing is the result of a federal appellate decision to uphold Dickerson's 1985 murder convictions but remand his death sentence back to county court.
Visiting Judge Richard Knepper, retired Judge George Glasser, and sitting Judge Charles Doneghy, who decided Dickerson's original guilt and sentence, will begin deliberations today.
Dickerson was convicted Nov. 5, 1985, of the shooting deaths of Nichole McClain, 15, and Kevin McCoy, 31, in a Pinewood Avenue apartment. Authorities said he was looking for his estranged girlfriend, Denise Howard, when he broke into the apartment and shot each victim twice.
In closing arguments yesterday, Dickerson's attorneys said the judges have information about their client's past they did not have 23 years ago. In particular, attorney David Doughten pointed out Dickerson's limited intelligence and abusive upbringing.
The judges must decide whether the mitigating factors of Dickerson's past outweigh the aggravating factors that made the crime death-penalty-eligible: the murder occurred during an aggravated burglary, and two people were killed.
"People weren't born to be killers. Something happens in their lives that causes them to act this way," Mr. Doughten said.
In his closing argument, Assistant County Prosecutor Dean Mandros asked the judges to consider everything, but do so giving proper weight to the facts. Though defense witnesses said Dickerson's mother did the best she could to raise him and testified about his low-functioning intelligence, the prosecutor noted that Dickerson managed to work as a pimp, running several prostitutes.
"He made choices. He chose the easy way. Every time he was faced with a choice, he chose the easy way," Mr. Mandros said.