Note: This story was originally posted in November 2009.
Harve Lamar Johnson's sister left a York County courtroom in tears Monday after a jury sentenced him to death for the fatal April 6, 2008, beating of 2-year-old Darisabel Baez.
Heather Lloyd and her mother, Cassandra Lloyd, both testified for Johnson during the penalty phase of his trial. The same jury convicted Johnson, 28, of first-degree murder on Friday.
Cassandra Lloyd clearly did not want to testify Monday.
Called by the defense, Johnson's mother cowered in the back corner of the courtroom, grasping a tissue in one hand.
Defense attorney Ari Weitzman went back, took her other hand and walked her slowly to the witness stand. She clutched the back of his suit coat as they went.
Lloyd then admitted in a raspy voice that she was a former crack and heroin addict who abused her children before successfully completing rehab 15 years ago.
"I beat the hell out of him," Lloyd said of her son's early life in Spanish Harlem, N.Y. "With anything I could get my hands on."
Lloyd said that included Hot Wheels track, belts, "belts with big buckles," cords and a clothes iron.
She said she spent her welfare checks one year on drugs and then locked her children in their room for two days so she would not have to face them on Christmas without presents.
Her older son, Heath Lloyd, is in prison in Louisiana for murder.
"Crazy," she said. "I feel like the worst person in the world."
Prosecutor Tim Barker told the jury that Johnson's childhood was neither "an excuse nor an explanation" for the brutal beating.
"What happed to the defendant in childhood was appalling," he said. "But it does not mitigate what he did to Darisabel."
Barker recalled Dr. Wayne K. Ross, the pathologist who performed the autopsy, to repeat his testimony that the beating took up to an hour and inflicted 150 injuries to the girl.
"This involves the intent to cause substantial pain and suffering," Barker said.
In an emotional closing argument, defense attorney Weitzman told the jury the number of tragedies he encountered in this case made him feel like vomiting.
He argued that Johnson did not intend to torture Darisabel. "I think that we can agree he was angry beyond all belief," he said. "He lost his mind and freaked out."
Asking the jury to sentence Johnson to life in prison without parole, Weitzman said, "But for the craziness of his life, he would not be here. He's hardened, his heart has been ripped out so many stinking times.
"He came from a place none of us can understand. He's got hell ahead of him regardless of the verdict.
"I'm not asking for a pass for him. I'm asking you to save his life."
The jury, which deliberated an hour and 35 minutes, reached its decision after determining the aggravating circumstances surrounding Darisabel's death - the victim being under the age of 12 and the fact she was tortured - outweighed the only mitigating circumstance - Johnson's lack of a significant prior criminal history.
Judge Michael J. Brillhart immediately sentenced Johnson to death "in a manner as prescribed by law in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania."
The state's three executions since reinstatement of the death penalty have been by lethal injection.
The attorneys were combative during penalty phase closing arguments, interrupting each other with objections. Weitzman, who had argued fervently for a life sentence for Johnson, and Rick Robinson, who last week tried to convince the jury to reach a lesser verdict than first-degree murder, left the courthouse without commenting.
Before speaking to the media on the courthouse steps, Barker said, "It's a serious and somber task when we have to ask the jury for a verdict of death. It's what justice required. We greatly appreciate the jury weighing everything they had to sit through."
Darisabel's grandparents, Margarita and Luis Leon, left the courthouse Monday without commenting on the death sentence.
Friday, Margarita Leon had recalled Darisabel as "a little angel. She was very happy."
AT A GLANCE
The crime: Harve Lamar Johnson fatally beat 2-year-old Darisabel Baez, his girlfriend's daughter, with a video game cord, one of the girl's hiking boots and his fists on April 6, 2008, in the couple's apartment at 710 W. Philadelphia St., York. The girl died the next day at Hershey Medical Center.
The trial: A York County jury convicted Johnson, 28, of first-degree murder Nov. 13, after four days of testimony, and sentenced him to death Monday following a penalty hearing. Neida Elizabeth Baez, 21, the girl's mother, previously pleaded guilty to third-degree murder for not intervening in Darisabel's behalf. She has a plea agreement for a sentence of five to 10 years.
What's next: Johnson's conviction and death sentence are automatically appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Justices examine the sufficiency of the evidence to support the conviction and if the death penalty is supported by the circumstances.
Johnson becomes the ninth man on death row from York County.
On the blogs· Carrying Darisabel: A documentary film
· Harve Johnson becomes the ninth man to sit on death row from York County.