DENVER — A jury convicted a man Monday in Denver's first death penalty-eligible case in over a decade.
Dexter Lewis was convicted of with orchestrating a robbery that went awry, ending in the stabbing of four women and a man inside Fero’s Bar at South Colorado Boulevard and East Alameda Avenue in 2012.
He and two others then allegedly torched the building to get rid of the evidence. A third man who was with them became a star witness and confessed to police.
The defense says the prosecution built its case on the words of liars and criminals.
"You have given your all to a task that you did not ask for," defense attorney David Kraut said. "And what did you receive in return? Unreliable purchased testimony and clichés about these witnesses. You deserve better. But they don`t have it. They don't have the proof."
But prosecutors say the evidence points to Lewis.
"It's the blame game," prosecutor Matt Wenig said. "Just shift it around, keep moving it around and when the music stops maybe it won’t land on Mr. Lewis."
The sentencing phase will now commence for Lewis, and it will follow the same process that just concluded for Aurora theater shooter James Holmes three days ago.
Before releasing jurors in the Fero's case for the day Monday, Denver District Judge John Madden IV reminded them that in spite of the similarities this case "has nothing to do with" the theater shooting case.
After convicting Holmes, the admitted gunman in the July 20, 2012 shooting that left 12 dead and 70 others injured, the jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict on Aug. 7, which forced the court to sentence Holmes to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Unlike Lewis, Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Despite the failed plea, Holmes' lawyers continued to present a significant amount of evidence in the penalty phase regarding what they called the "severe mental illness" afflicting their client.
While they did not present evidence their client suffered from mental illness in the trial, Lewis' lawyers could introduce evidence to that effect in as a mitigating factor in the upcoming penalty phase.