A defense attorney argued yesterday in Detroit that a security guard killed while replenishing cash at a Dearborn Federal Credit Union ATM in 2001 was not shot by the man being tried in a death penalty case, but by one of his accomplices.

While prosecutors insisted in closing arguments yesterday there is overwhelming evidence that Timothy O’Reilly murdered the armored truck guard, attorneys for O'Reilly argued the fatal shotgun blasts were fired by co-accused Kevin Watson, who still awaits trial.

A Detroit attorney representing O’Reilly argued that given the layout of the robbery scene, it would have been physically impossible for O'Reilly to have shot Stephens while he was lying on the ground, as the government argued. He said that jurors should not believe government witnesses – jailhouse snitches and co-defendants – who cooperated in exchange for lenient sentences and get-out-of-jail-free cards.

If jurors determine O'Reilly is guilty of murdering Norman “Anthony” Stephens during the $204,000 heist, a separate trial will be held to determine if O’Reilly should be sentenced to life in prison, or to death, which would be the first execution carried out in Michigan, the first state to ban the death penalty, since 1938. The 37-year-old O’Reilly is being tried under federal statute that still allows the death penalty.

O’Reilly was one of six men who pulled up in a van early on the morning of Dec. 14, 2001, while Stephens and two others were filling ATMs at the credit union, now known as DFCU Financial. The men donned masks and one or more fired on Stephens, while the two other guards locked themselves in the back of the truck to escape the robbers.

The group – a gang of African-American bikers – also was responsible for a $175,000 heist from an armored truck at Comerica Bank. O’Reilly was described as a wannabe member of the gang, a Caucasian who wore corn rows to fit in.

O’Reilly was eventually arrested and sentenced to prison for another heist and while in prison was taped by an informer bragging that he fired the shots that killed Stephens. O'Reilly talked about details of the robbery and said: "There's always people you gotta kill."

Subscribe Now

Authoritative analysis and perspective for every segment of the payments industry

14-Day Free Trial

Authoritative analysis and perspective for every segment of the industry