Family of slain Temple sergeant call for death penalty, want special prosecutor to take case

In a letter Wednesday, the family of slain Temple police sergeant Christopher Fitzgerald said they have asked a new special prosecutor to pick up their son's case and seek the death penalty for his accused killer

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The family of slain Temple University Police Sergeant Christopher Fitzgerald are calling for prosecutors to seek the death penalty for the man accused of murdering the 31-year-old husband and father.

And, they said, if Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner won't seek capital punishment in this case, the family is hoping a newly appointed special prosecutor will.

“We recognize and appreciate the opportunity that our family had to be heard. There has been national interest in Christopher’s murder, and we press on for thousands of families who are unable to seek justice in a similar manner. We stand in unity and prayer with them as they suffer similar pain and trauma. While nothing can replace my husband or your loved ones, we must continue to fight for them, and for change," Fitzgerald's wife Marissa said, in a letter shared by the family's attorneys, the Marrone Law Firm, on Wednesday morning.

Fitzgerald was gunned down on the evening of Feb. 18 of 2023 in an attack that happened near North 17 Street and West Montgomery Avenue in North Philadelphia. At the time, Fitzgerald was trying to apprehend a person who robbed a nearby convenience store.

Police have arrested 19-year-old Miles Pfeffer for the killing. Officials believe Pfeffer shot Fitzgerald in the head during a struggle, killing him.

After Fitzgerald had been fatally injured and lay bleeding on the ground, police believe Pfeffer attempted to rob Fitzgerald of his gun and went through his pockets.

In the past, Krasner has called the death penalty "unconstitutional" and Fitzgerald's family claimed that they were told, through a letter from the DA's office, that prosecutors would not seek the death penalty in Fitzgerald's case.

Also, this isn't the first time that Fitzgerald's family have called for the death penalty for his killer. Family members called for capital punishment during a hearing earlier this year, as well.

The slain officer's mother, Marissa, argued that taking the death penalty off the table removes an option for a judge and jury tasked with seeking justice in her son's slaying.

“While the death penalty is not part of the religious or personal beliefs of some, we respect the law and all associated lawful penalties. Prior to this evening, we remained prayerful that the judicial system would be allowed to work and that the fate of my son’s murderer would be decided by a judge or jury with all available options," she said in a statement.

Fitzgerald's father, Joel, called out the district attorney directly, in a statement, saying that Krasner "has tipped the scales of justice," in being unwilling to seek the death penalty.

"Christopher’s is the first case of a police officer being killed that his office will prosecute and instead of rewriting an already flawed script on crime and punishment, he has allowed hubris and an intense disdain for law enforcement officers to cloud his judgement," claimed the slain Temple sergeant's father in a statement. "Krasner is unable to divorce himself from years as a defense attorney and has tipped the scales of justice one-way. The mayor will not say it, but he is an anchor to the city that he adopted.”

Also, in the statement, police unions, including the Philadelphia FOP Lodge 5, Temple University Police Association and the PA State FOP, note that they have joined in condemning the fact that Krasner will not seek the death penalty in this case.

The family noted that they are calling on Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry to empower newly appointed Special Prosecutor Michael Untermeyer, to adopt the case.

Untermeyer has been named as a special prosecutor through Act 40 and he has been placed in charge of investigating and prosecuting crimes on SEPTA.

The family noted that Fitzgerald's slaying happened within 500 feet of a SEPTA location.

An attorney in Krasner's office has told NBC10 that they are not seeking the death penalty.

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The Fitzgeralds say they feel that without the death penalty even on the table, the District Attorney is setting a dangerous precedent and sending an unthinkable message.

In a statement on Wednesday morning, Dustin Slaughter, a spokesperson for the DA's office said they didn't make the decision lightly.

"District Attorney Krasner, consistent with his oath to seek justice and uphold the law, will not seek the death penalty in the case of Miles Pfeffer, who murdered Police Officer Fitzgerald," Slaughter noted. "This decision was made after extensive input over many hours from the family of Officer Fitzgerald, and from experts. The members of the DAO committee that considers possible death penalty matters include attorneys with a cumulative total of hundreds of years of homicide and other criminal trial and appeal experience. They reviewed all aspects of the case itself and all obtainable information on the defendant prior to making their recommendations to DA Krasner, who made the final determination."

Slaughter also noted that the office plans to continue to work with Fitzgerald's family as the case proceeds through court.

"The input of the family is deeply appreciated and was carefully considered by the committee and DA Krasner prior to his decision. The DAO looks forward to continuing to support the family’s needs and to vigorously prosecuting this terrible murder," he said.

Asked about the case, a representative with the Pa. Attorney General’s office pointed to Act 40, which notes that a special prosecutor would only have jurisdiction over incidents that happen on a SEPTA property.

Also, attorneys for Pfeffer, who has been charged in this incident, have said they do not intend to plead guilty in this case.

This case is next expected to return to court on July 31.

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