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New Jersey Guard's Killer Gets Life

Steven Beverly was convicted for the 1997 killing of a Bayside State Prison (New Jersey) guard. But two days later, November 11, 1998, the jury of seven men and five women said they were deadlocked on whether he should be executed. Under state law that means the judge could impose only a life term without parole.

Beverly, 39, stabbed Bayside guard Frederick W. Baker, 35, in the back with a makeshift ice-pick after Baker ordered Beverly and his homosexual cellmate separated. Baker had reportedly targeted Beverly for harassment for some time, and the two argued loudly just hours before the killing.

According to the verdict sheet for the penalty phase of Beverly's trial the jury unanimously agreed on two mitigating factors: that the Bayside administration permitted and fostered "an environment in which racism flourished" and that the prison administration "did not properly respond to complaints of Steven Beverly so as to minimize or eliminate the anger and frustrations which caused Steven Beverly to commit the offense."

The jurors also decided by an 11-1 vote that Beverly "was the victim of racial and sexual-orientation discrimination by the administration of Bayside State Prison." But they decided by an 8-4 vote that Beverly was not a target of racial and sexual discrimination by the slain guard.

The trial judge, Joseph F. Lisa, commended the jurors for fulfilling their civil duty and for "seriously and responsibly contemplating the actual life-or-death question." The judge said that he was satisfied that justice had been served.

Philadelphia Inquirer

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