PHILADELPHIA. John "Jordan" Lewis, the man accused of killing Officer Chuck Cassidy in October 2007 during a hold-up, surprisingly pleaded guilty to murder Thursday in the opening day of trial, putting his life in the hands of eight women and four men on the jury.

By admitting to gunning down Cassidy inside the Dunkin Donuts in West Oak Lane, the jury must now only decide whether Lewis committed first-degree murder, which could result in the death penalty, or second-degree, which carries a mandatory life sentence.

The heavy-set, boyish-looking Lewis, now 23, also pleaded guilty to several counts of robbery and possessing an instrument of crime for six robberies between Sept. 18, 2007 and Oct. 31 – the day he ran into Cassidy – as members of his family and Cassidy's family looked on.

Defense attorney Michael Coard described Cassidy as "a hero who died at the hand of John Lewis." He claims the shooting, however, was a panicked reaction from Lewis when his crime was interrupted.

"It took everybody off guard a little bit," McNesby said afterward of Lewis' guilty plea. "I would absolutely like to see him [found guilty of] first-degree."