PITTSBURGH -- Jurors who chose the death penalty for a black man convicted of killing three white men said the decision was not easy after listening to family members on both sides.
Ronald Taylor, 41, was sentenced to death Sunday for fatally shooting the men and wounding two others in suburban Pittsburgh during a racially motivated rampage on March 1, 2000.
"The whole trial was very hard and very emotional," said Joy Webb, the only black juror. "It impacted the whole community and we took that all into consideration and made our decision."
The jury, which took two days to reach its decision, had the option of sentencing Taylor to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Judge Lawrence O'Toole will formally sentence Taylor but is bound by the jury's decision on the three first-degree murder charges. No date was set for the formal sentencing, which will make Taylor the 246th person on Pennsylvania's death row.
Defense lawyers had argued that Taylor was insane and suffered from delusions that whites were persecuting him. At the time of the killings, he was unemployed and receiving disability checks because of mental illness.
Taylor's siblings testified that their father abused all of them, but singled out Ronald because he was "slow."
Defense attorney Lisa Middleman said she was disappointed by the decision. She had asked the jurors to show compassion because of Taylor's mental state.
"It's very hard to have faith in a system that puts severely mentally ill, mentally retarded, abused people to death," she said Sunday.
Prosecutors maintained that Taylor knew what he was doing when he targeted whites. Even a defense psychiatrist testified that Taylor "had an awareness" that killing was considered wrong.
Defense attorney John Elash said it is difficult for a jury in a case like Taylor's to make a finding based solely on the law.
"You have the judge say, 'Well, you've listened to a day and a half of tearful testimony and you've gone through two boxes of Kleenex, but now we want you to ignore that and make a determination on their loss."'
Some family members of victims said the jury made the right decision.
Carol Kroll, widow of John Kroll, Taylor's first victim, held up a picture of a black gravestone to reporters.
"Either way, Mr. Taylor is still going to get to see his family and here's where I ... this is where I see my husband," she said, hands shaking. "That's where the kids and I have to go."
Michaela Sanielevici, whose 20-year-old son Emil was killed by Taylor, said she was satisfied with the jury's decision.
"Justice is working, so I'm grateful to the jury that they did their duty," Sanielevici said.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.