The bell atop the Pike County Courthouse in Milford, Pennsylvania, last rang in the name of a condemned murderer to be executed in the 1980s. On April 26, the bell was rang again by tradition as another man was sentenced to death that day by a jury.
Survivalist revolutionary Eric Frein, who shot two Pennsylvania officers, killing one, in an ambush at their barracks late at night, was handed the maximum punishment allowed under state law.
The jury’s decision to execute Frein by lethal injection triggered a roused “yes!” from the gallery, where highly ranked police officers, the murdered officer’s mother and the trooper who survived the attack but sustained life-changing injuries, sat.
“Jurors have delivered full justice in this case and issued the penalty that is so richly deserved by Eric Frein,” said District Attorney Ray Tonkin, The Associated Press reports.
Frein, 33, expressed no emotion upon hearing his sentence, according to The Morning Caller.
Just minutes after the verdict was read, a Pike County sheriff went up the courthouse cupola and rang the bell eight times, in keeping with a tradition that began in the 1800s.
Prosecutors painted Frein as a man bent on starting a revolt against the government when he used a high-powered rifle to attack the Blooming Grove barracks in the Pocono Mountains on Sept. 12, 2014.
Cpl. Bryon Dickson II, a Marine veteran and married father of two, and Trooper Alex Douglass were struck by Frein’s bullets — the former was killed while the latter sustained critical injuries.
Police initiated a manhunt for Frein that lasted for 48 days. The killer, for a time, was on the federal list for most wanted criminal.
According to a journal Frein kept, the survivalist described how he killed Dickson, by shooting him twice and seeing him fall “still and quiet.”
In a letter addressed to his parents, written while eluding authorities but never mailed, he dwelled on lost liberties, expressed a hope of revolution and said, “The time seems right for a spark to ignite a fire in the hearts of men.”
Using lawyerly rhetoric, district attorney Raymond Tonkin stated the revolutionary showed “wickedness of heart” when he “made a choice to pull that cold trigger again, again and again” in his closing argument.
Frein’s defense, in return, spoke of his humanity.
“Eric Frein is a human being, with the qualities of humanity that we all have,” said William Ruzzo, one of the Frein’s defense lawyers. “He has an inner core of goodness, as all of us do, despite some dastardly acts that he committed. Eric deserves to live.”
Pennsylvania’s last execution was in 1999. With a moratorium placed on the death penalty by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, and a record of the state only executing three people since the Supreme Court restored the death penalty in 1976, observers of the case say it is unlikely Frein’s sentence will actually be carried out.
Meanwhile, his lawyers vowed to rigorously appeal the decision.