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Death penalty not an option in Homewood teen's homicide case

| Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Pittsburgh Bureau of Police
Jordan Bey, 16, of Homewood is charged with homicide, robbery, conspiracy and a gun violation in the Oct. 8, 2013, death of Omar Islam, 21, of the North Side.

Cee Cee Johnson wants the death penalty for the Homewood teenager accused of killing her friend Omar Islam, 21, along the East Busway, shooting him seven times, including six times after he was robbed.

That won't be an option for Jordan Bey, 16, who is two birthdays shy of the minimum execution age the U.S. Supreme Court set in 2005. The high court ruled capital punishment is cruel and unusual for juveniles, no matter the crime. Bey was charged as an adult.

“I understand he's 16. But I would say, in this whole incident, he wasn't acting as a child,” said Johnson, 25, of Homewood. “He wouldn't be walking around plotting a crime like robbing someone and walking around with guns. You have to face consequences when you sign up for stuff like that.”

Two women at Bey's home declined to comment Wednesday evening.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. has not commented on how his office will prosecute Bey and would not discuss the matter on Wednesday, spokesman Mike Manko said. It wasn't clear whether Bey had an attorney.

He remained in the Allegheny County Jail, where District Judge James Motznik placed him Tuesday without bail on homicide, robbery and conspiracy charges. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Oct. 25.

Police are looking for two accomplices in the Oct. 8shooting in Homewood, spokeswoman Diane Richard said. Investigators identified one as Desmond Young, 20, of Homewood, who stands about 5-feet, 5-inches tall and weighs about 160 pounds.

They identified the other — another Homewood-area resident — only by the nickname “Blue.”

Bey, Young and Blue approached Islam at a bus stop when their earlier robbery plans fell flat, a criminal complaint shows. They demanded a cellphone from Islam, of Troy Hill, who struggled to defend himself and first was shot in the right leg, according to police reports.

When Islam gave up his belongings and hobbled away, Bey shot Islam five times in the back, then one more time in the head, police said. They have no evidence Islam did anything wrong.

Even in such violent cases, state lawmakers for years have moved away from capital punishment for juvenile offenders, said Richard Dieter, executive director at the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center in Washington.

He said 30 states by 2005 banned the death penalty outright or specifically for juveniles — a key factor in the Supreme Court order on underage executions. The high court, in its 5-4 decision, found the death penalty was less likely to be a deterrent among young people.

“I think their reasoning abilities, their formation of conscience, their ability to change — all of that, I think, weighed into the court's analysis,” Dieter said.

Still, limiting juvenile penalties to non-capital punishments can dilute the power of juries, said Michael Rushford, president at the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in Sacramento, Calif.

“What you're doing is taking something away from 12 jurors, picked at random, who can agree unanimously on a sentence they think the crime deserves,” Rushford said. “When you do that, you weaken the system.”

Adam Smeltz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He canbe reached at 412-380-5676 or asmeltz@tribweb.com.

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