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Eric Frein Trial: Alleged Cop Killer Faces Death Penalty as Trial Begins

Alleged Pennsylvania cop killer Eric Frein’s life hangs in the balance as his trial began Tuesday — more than two years after he led state law enforcement on a 48-day manhunt through the Poconos.

The jury heard opening arguments on Tuesday morning in which the prosecution took almost two hours to describe every moment of the attack. According to NBC affiliate WGAL, they described Frein as a hunter searching for prey.

The defense said Frein will not take the stand to defend himself, even though the death penalty is on the table.

Frein, a 33-year-old described as an anti-government survivalist by authorities, is on trial for the murder of state police Cpl. Bryon Dickson and wounding trooper Alex Douglass in a Sept. 2014 sniper attack on a police station in Pike County during a shift change. He faces charges of first-degree murder, terrorism and more for the incident that shocked and paralyzed the region.

Pike County DA: Frein Faces Murder, Weapons Charges 1:48

Nearly 1,000 law enforcement officers descended on the Poconos woods to hunt for Frein — who cost Pennsylvania authorities more than $11 million and rose to the top of the FBI’s most wanted list — and caught him outside of an abandoned airport hangar north of Philadelphia after 48 days of searching.

Prosecutors twice read from Frein's journal to reinforce his anti-government stance, WGAL reported.

"Our nation is far from what it should be... so much wrong on so many levels," the prosecutor said, reciting Frein's words. "What I have done has not been done before, and it felt like it was worth a try."

Those aren't the only self-incriminating words that the prosecution has at its disposal.

After his capture, Eric Frein allegedly confessed to the attack on video during a police interrogation — a damning tape that the prosecution added as its first piece of evidence.

Lawyers for the defense attempted to have the confession thrown out on Monday because they claimed the police interview had been a “violation of the Defendant’s right to remain silent,” according to court documents.

Judge Gregory H. Chelak denied this assertion, stating that the “court specifically finds that the Defendant did not make an unambiguous or unequivocal assertion of his right to remain silent.”

According to the Associated Press, Frein told authorities that, while he didn’t want to talk about the crimes, he would tell them where he buried a rifle in the woods.

Image:Eric Frein
Eric Frein is led away by Pennsylvania State Police Troopers at the Pike County Courthouse after his preliminary hearing on Monday, Jan. 5, 2015 in Milford, Pa. Butch Comegys / AP

The police were eventually able to persuade Frein to talk about the attack, which he called an assassination committed to “wake people up,” the AP reported.

The defense later argued that Frein’s right to counsel was also violated by police. A lawyer that his father had retained to represent him had difficulty accessing him during the interrogation, they claimed.

But Judge Chelak also denied this attempt to have the confession thrown out.

The video confession “fails to establish any request of the Defendant himself to retain or speak with” an attorney, the judge wrote, adding that the police officers who interrogated Frein did not know that a lawyer was trying to reach him.

While the prosecution took a fair amount of time to establish its case, the defense only took about 15 minutes to deliver its opening remarks, WGAL reported.

Frein's lawyers reminded the jury that the state had to prove his guilt and encouraged them to listen to the witnesses.

While the trial will take place in Milford, Pennsylvania, in the northeastern-most region of the state, the jury was selected in Chester County — located almost 150 miles south of the small town’s courthouse — because of the high-profile nature of the case.

Members of the jury will be sequestered in Milford during the week and be able to return to their homes in Chester County on weekends for a trial that is expected to take as long as five weeks.

If the jury convicts Frein, they will have to decide between a death sentence or life in prison.

Frein pleaded not guilty.

In a Dec. 2014 restraining order filing, Frein blamed Olympic Park Bomber Eric Rudolph and alleged mobster Joey Merlino for the murders. In his complaint, Frein claimed the two had framed him.