Frimpong found guilty

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A Prince William Circuit Court jury convicted a Woodbridge man Thursday afternoon of first-degree murder in his wife’s killing.

Jurors recommended a life sentence for Yaw Amoako Frimpong, 25, of 2710 Corbin Court.

“This was a horrific, brutal killing,” Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jerrold J. Negin told jurors in his closing arguments. “She had her life crushed from her and further suffered the indignity of gruesome photos [of her displayed] in a public forum.”

Several of the 12 members of the jury were visibly discomfited by photographs of the crime scene and autopsy. Ethel Lee Hicks Frimpong, 35, died of blunt force trauma of the head after she was struck at least seven times, medical examiner Frances Field testified Wednesday.

On prominent display throughout closing arguments Thursday morning was the 25-pound dumbbell Frimpong used to shatter his wife’s skull July 29, 2002.

“If I dropped it on the floor, I’d imagine it’d put a nice dent in it,” Negin said.

“I encourage each of you pick it up,” defense attorney Paul J. Walla told jurors. “[It would take] adrenaline … to pick it up and swing it.”

Walla argued that only if Frimpong was racing with adrenaline could he have wielded the dumbbell in such a way. Walla argued the crime had been committed in the heat of passion, and that his client should be charged with manslaughter, not murder, which is premeditated or malicious by definition.

Walla also suggested that his client, who told a Prince William detective he had consumed 60 ounces of alcoholic beverages during the evening, had “alcohol present in his system” at the time of the killing.

Frimpong testified that he and his wife had been arguing before the killing took place. Both were drinking.

The jury, however, was convinced by prosecutors’ arguments that there were inconsistencies in Frimpong’s statements to police about his level of intoxication, and that Frimpong made deliberate choices in killing his wife.

“Every time he hit her, he had time to stop and think,” Negin argued. “He kept hitting her, blow after blow after blow.”

“The defendant made a conscious choice to create this result … to decide what to do next, to break down her door, a conscious decision, what weapon to use …” Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney William E. Jarvis said.

Jarvis argued that premeditation occurs when a person is able to reflect before acting, for however brief a moment. He used the analogy of a baseball player, who has a very short time to decide to swing at a pitch, but makes a conscious decision to do so.

“In your own human experience, where there is anger, are there pauses to reflect?” Walla asked jurors.

Evidence of premeditation is necessary for a defendant to be convicted of first-degree murder.

First-degree murder is punishable by 20 years imprisonment to a life sentence. Frimpong will be sentenced June 19. While the jury recommends a sentence, by Virginia law, a judge metes out punishment to the defendant. The judge can elect to lower the sentence from the jury’s recommendation if he feels it is appropriate.

Staff writer Maria Hegstad can be reached at (703) 368-3101, Ext. 121.

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