Lycoming County jurors Wednesday night found Maurice Patterson guilty of planning and giving the green light to murder a man who was going to be the best man in his wedding.
On the eighth day of the trial, Patterson, 36, was found guilty of first-degree murder as an accomplice in the death of Eric Sawyer, 38, whose body was found by city police having been shot twice in an unnamed alley in the 1500 block of High Street about 3 a.m. March 31, 2007.
Patterson also was convicted of conspiracy and solicitation by the jury in the trial presided over by Judge Nancy L. Butts.
He was convicted of ordering the "hit," sending street-slang-laced, coded messages to his drug-dealing associates, Javier S. Cruz-Echevarria and Sean Durrant, the man who has confessed to pulling the trigger of the stolen shotgun, twice shooting Sawyer in the head after being told by Patterson and Cruz-Echevarria that Sawyer was a confidential informant working with police.
Cruz-Echevarria was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy and is serving life in state prison without a chance for parole. Durrant, who testified the murder was over envy involving a woman, has signed a plea agreement with Linhardt's office to receive a sentence of 25 to 60 years in state prison. He has not been formally sentenced.
Death or life imprisonment?
Starting today at 9:30 a.m., District Attorney Eric R. Linhardt will present evidence to the same 12 jurors to determine whether Patterson receives a sentencing similar to Cruz-Echevarria or is sentenced to die.
Sawyer's mother and family were escorted by deputy sheriffs to their cars.
Patterson's attorneys Michael Rudinski and Kyle Rude have reserved comment at this time.
The verdict was reached about 6:30 p.m. after jurors spent most of the day receiving the instructional charge from Butts, reviewing evidence, including telephone calls and prison visitation records shown during the trial.
Patterson testified in the trial, becoming emotional and upset when questioned by Linhardt if he was the commander at the helm in the deadly plot.
He repeatedly confessed to selling drugs, and said the big night was about a major score of drugs, not "sanctioning" an assassination.