The penalty phase began Monday for the man convicted of killing a police officer in Northampton County.
The same jury that convicted George Hitcho last week must now decide whether the cop killer gets the death penalty or ends up spending life in prison.
As part of the penalty phase, the Northampton County jury listened to several more hours of testimony from the family of the victim, Freemansburg Police Officer Robert Lasso, and from the family and friends of the killer, George Hitcho.
A jury convicted Hitcho last week of first-degree murder for shooting to death Lasso when Lasso was responding to a domestic dispute near Bethlehem between Hitcho and a neighbor last August.
Both sides gave opening statements at the penalty phase, each stressing to the jury the importance of their life or death decision.
“He’s (Hitcho) not a bad person,” Hitcho’s attorney, Michael Corriere told the jury. “He did a terrible thing.”
Then, five family members of Officer Lasso took the stand. Each one explained what life is like without Robert Lasso.
Lasso’s mother, Elsie Stem, read her statement and immediately started to cry.
Through a cracked voice, she told the jury, “A mother should never outlive their child. I am heartbroken.”
Then, Officer Lasso’s widow, Jennifer Lasso testified, with tears running down her face.
“Rose (Lasso’s daughter) will not have her father walk her down the aisle all because her father was doing something good,” Jennifer Lasso said.
Then, Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli asked Lasso’s widow how her children are dealing with the loss of their father.
As she started to cry, she told the jury, “Rose (Lasso’s daughter) stopped asking and I think she gets it, that her dad is not coming home. Frankie (Lasso’s son) asks ‘When is dad coming home? When can I visit dad in heaven?’”
Several family members and friends did testify for Hitcho Monday afternoon, telling the jury Hitcho was a good friend who was always willing to help them out in tough times.
The district attorney said the penalty phase of the trial could wrap up by Wednesday.