A Franklin County jury has sentenced Quentin Smith to life in prison without the possibility parole for the murder of two Westerville Police officers.
Attorneys for the state and the defense laid out their final arguments Wednesday in the sentencing phase of the trial. On Friday, Smith was convicted of two counts of aggravated murder, among other charges, in the February 2018 deaths of Westerville officers Eric Joering and Anthony Morelli.
Franklin County prosecutors pursued the death penalty against Smith, because the officers were killed in the line of duty.
Defense attorney Diane Menashe told the jury she respected the verdict that Smith purposefully killed the officers.
“No question about that, pen to paper that’s what your verdicts read," Menashe says. "But purpose is not planning. There is no evidence I submit to you that he planned to kill those officers. That is, on Feb. 10, 2018, when that man woke up, there is no evidence to show that he planned to kill officers.”
But Franklin County prosecutor James Lowe insisted the events leading up to Morelli and Joering knocking on the door were solely Smith's choice.
"His choice to shoot at officers with his 15-month-old daughter 10 feet away - his choice," Lowe says. "His mental health may have placed him at risk, but it didn't force him to commit these aggravated circumstances. Those were his choices."
The two officers were responding to a 911 hang up call from Smith's estranged wife Candace, who prosecutors say was strangled to the point that she lost consciousness. Smith was also convicted Friday of one count of domestic violence.
On Monday, jurors heard the family of the officers give read victim impact statements.
“The 10th of every month is a hard day emotionally to get through," said Morelli's widow Linda Morelli. "Every holiday, birthday, anniversary, and family gathering we are missing him.”
"Can you imagine being in 7th grade and knowing your father had been gunned down?” Jami Joering read to the jury. “The other two girls crumbled upon hearing what had happened."
Jurors had to choose between several potential sentences, including death, life without parole, and the possibility of parole after 25-30 years.
The jury also weighed mitigating circumstances like Smith's mental health against the circumstances laid out in the trial phase, including the fact that he killed more than one person and that he killed a law enforcement officer. Jurors were also able to consider factors that were not raised by the defense.
However, Judge Richard Frye warned jurors before deliberations that "mercy is not a mitigating factor."
Ultimately, jurors said they were unable to decide between the aggravating and mitigating circumstances, and opted instead for two life sentences without parole.