Eric Frein found guilty on all 12 counts, including murder and terrorism

In passionate two-hour closing argument, DA calls Frein 'terrorist with murder in his heart, murder in his mind'

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  • Eric Frein

By Marilyn Rosenthal

— A jury on Wednesday found Eric Matthew Frein guilty on all 12 counts, including first-degree murder and terrorism, in the trooper ambush case being tried at the Pike County Courthouse.

The jury announced its decision after four hours of deliberation. Judge Gregory H. Chelak polled the 12 jurors one by one, and all agreed. The court has accepted the verdict.

Judge Chelak noted the trial is not over. The jury will now decide the penalty for the two first-degree murder charges. The prosecution will push for the death penalty, and the defense will argue for life in prison without parole. The trial is likely to continue into next week.

"This is a very somber and serious case," said District Attorney Ray Tonkin after the verdict. "We will be presenting many aggravating factors and will be looking for full justice next week."

Defense Attorney William Ruzzo said his team will present "as many mitigating factors as possible."

"Eric is a human being," Ruzzo said. "We think he deserves to live. The best he could do is to live a long life in prison."

Closing argumentsBoth sides presented their closing arguments before the jury began its deliberation.

Defense attorney Michael Weinstein's closing argument took nine minutes. Tonkin's took two hours.

Weinstein thanked the jury for its commitment to the court and the Pennsylvania system of justice. He acknowledged the mountain of evidence against his client. But, he said, it is not necessarily the quantity of evidence that matters.

"Eric Frein comes before you in a cloak of innocence, and it is the responsibility of the Commonwealth to remove that cloak and prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt," he said.

He continued, "You can draw no adverse opinion from the fact that Eric Frein didn't testify."

The defense team has faith in the jury's decision, he told them.

"It's in your hands," he said.

Tonkin's closing argument was a rat-tat-tat-tat barrage of striking points that differed completely in tone and substance.

He was passionate in his condemnation of Frein. He called him a "terrorist with murder in his heart, murder in his mind, and a rifle in his hands who slithered in the woods" on Sept. 12, 2014.

"Frein positioned himself 87 yards away from the barracks and waited to strike — first one rifle shot and then another," said Tonkin. "Then he waited for 90 seconds to strike again, and, under the cover of darkness, he slithered away. That murderer and terrorist sits before you. He sits right over there."

Tonkin summarized the facts revealed by 50 witnesses and more than 500 pieces of evidence. He presented PowerPoint slides reviewing the salient features of the case, from before the night of the ambush through to Frein's capture at an abandoned airport hangar seven weeks later.

He linked notes in Frein's handwriting and items found in his bedroom to the shooting. He compared Frein's to-do and packing lists with those in a sniper training manual found in his bedroom.

He compared Frein's crimes to the troopers' public service. The officers who work at the Blooming Grove barracks protect the public, he noted, and many had also served the country as Marines. Even the dispatcher on duty on the night of the ambush, Nicole Palmer, was there to serve the public, he said.

He compared the American flag flown at the barracks to "the patch on Frein's jacket with a foreign language on it."

"Trooper Douglass is in pain every day," Tonkin said. "His life will never be the same. It is the end of his service because Eric Frein decided to end that service for a reason — because he wore a uniform!"

Editor's note: This article has been updated from the original to replace "mediating" with "mitigating."

12 counts

The jury found Eric Matthew Frein guilty of all 12 counts, as follows:
1. Murder in the first degree (of Cpl. Bryon Dickson II)
2. Murder in the first degree of a law enforcement officer (Cpl. Bryon Dickson II)
3. Criminal attempt to commit murder in the first degree (Trooper Alex Douglass)
4. Criminal attempt to commit homicide of a law enforcement officer (Trooper Alex Douglass)
5. Assault of a law enforcement officer with a firearm (Trooper Alex Douglass)
6. Terrorism count 1 (One for each home-made bomb found)
7. Terrorism count 1 (One for each home-made bomb found)
8. Weapons of mass destruction (Improvised Explosive Device, IED)
9. Weapons of mass destruction (Improvised Explosive Device, IED-2 IED)
10. Discharging a firearm into an occupied structure
11. Possessing an instrument of crime ( rifle with intent to use)
12. Recklessly endangering another person (Nicole Palmer, operator on duty)

The case in outline

Eric Matthew Frein, 33, of Canadensis, Pa., is being tried for the murder of Corporal Bryon K. Dickson II and critical injury of Trooper Alex T. Douglass in a shooting ambush at the Pennsylvania State Police barracks at Blooming Grove that occurred late on Friday, Sept. 12, 2014.
After a massive manhunt through the woods of Pike and Monroe Counties, Frein was captured by U.S. Marshals on Oct. 30, near an abandoned airport hangar at Birchwood-Pocono Airpark in the Tannersville area.
The capital trial began April 4 at the Pike County Courthouse in Milford with a jury selected from Chester County, near Philadelphia.
On Jan. 29, 2015, Frein pleaded not guilty to all charges against him.
County District Attorney Raymond Tonkin is prosecuting the case. The defense attorneys are Michael Weinstein and William Ruzzo.
A jury on April 19 found Frein guilty of all 12 counts with which he was charged, and will now decide the penalty.

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