SCRANTON, Pa. – An inmate has been convicted of first-degree murder in the slaying of a guard at a federal prison in Pennsylvania more than four years ago, and jurors must now decide whether he should be executed.
Jurors deliberated for about a half-hour Wednesday before convicting Jessie Con-ui, 40, of first-degree murder and murder of a correction officer in the February 2013 stabbing death of corrections officer Eric Williams, 34, at the Canaan federal prison in Waymart.
The trial now moves to a penalty phase expected to begin June 19 during which jurors will hear evidence on whether the defendant should be executed or spend life in prison without possibility of parole.
Prosecutors allege that Con-ui stopped the attack in a prison housing unit to walk over to a shower, clean a cut on his hand and wrap it before continuing. He later paused to chew a piece of gum he took from the dying guard's pocket before returning to his cell, authorities said. Officers who followed a bloody trail to Con-ui's cell reported seeing him holding a clear, plastic knife and asked if he killed Williams, and they said he responded "Yes, disrespect issue."
Defense attorney David Ruhnke said Monday in his opening statement that Con-ui, who is serving 25 years to life for a 2002 gang initiation murder in Arizona, killed Williams without excuse or justification and "is guilty of murder beyond all doubt." Ruhnke said he didn't plan to challenge the government's evidence but would present evidence during the penalty phase.
Con-ui's attorneys have previously alleged a pattern of mistreatment of prisoners and maintain that their client was generally well-behaved but snapped because of such conduct. Prosecutors say Con-ui has a history of dozens of disciplinary actions ranging from refusing orders to stabbing and beating other inmates and threatening a guard over a search of his cell.
Since the slaying, Con-ui has been at a super-maximum security prison in Colorado, where he's serving 25 years to life for a 2002 gang initiation murder in Arizona.