Justices lean toward death row inmate in dispute with lawyer
The Supreme Court appeared to be in broad agreement Wednesday that a lawyer for
a criminal defendant cannot override his client's wish and concede his guilt at
trial, even if the lawyer's aim is to avoid a death sentence.
"People can walk themselves into jail. They can walk themselves, regrettably,
into the gas chamber. But they have a right to tell their story," said Justice
Sonia Sotomayor, the high court member with the most experience as a trial
lawyer and trial judge.
Sotomayor seemed to reflect a consensus view of the justices in the case of
Louisiana death row inmate Robert McCoy. He repeatedly objected to his lawyer's
decision to acknowledge that McCoy killed the son, mother and step-father of
his estranged wife in 2008.
Larry English, McCoy's trial lawyer, has said the evidence against McCoy was
overwhelming and that the only way to keep McCoy off death row was to beg for
mercy. In the end, the strategy failed and a jury sentenced McCoy to death. If
he wins at the Supreme Court, he could get a new trial.
The high court is weighing who is ultimately in charge of the case, the lawyer
or his client, and whether the right to a lawyer that's guaranteed by the
Constitution is meaningful if, even with the best intentions, he can ignore his
The court has previously held that the defendant typically is in charge, but
that he cedes some control to his lawyer.
Seth Waxman, McCoy's Supreme Court lawyer, said the decision to admit guilt
rests with the defendant.
"If the defendant says I did not do X, I did not kill my parents, my family
members, defense counsel may not affirmatively tell the jury that he did and
ask that he be required to spend the rest of his life in prison," Waxman said.
Justice Neil Gorsuch described English's concession as a grave error requiring
a new trial. "A total denial of assistance of counsel, absence of an assistance
of counsel," Gorsuch said.
Defending the Louisiana Supreme Court decision that rejected McCoy's claims,
Louisiana Solicitor General Elizabeth Murrill urged the justices to decide that
there are some death penalty cases where a lawyer can override his client's
wishes "when the strategy that the client wants counsel to pursue is a futile
McCoy's case is one such example, Murrill said. Court records point to
considerable evidence against McCoy, including a gun found in the vehicle in
which he was riding at the time of his arrest in Idaho that was linked to
cartridge casings found at the scene of the killings in Louisiana.
McCoy testified in his own defense, saying he was innocent and suggesting that
a drug trafficking ring led by law enforcement officers had framed him for the
killings. He tried to recruit witnesses he said would vouch for him, including
then-Sen. David Vitter. Vitter said he did not know McCoy.
The trial court found McCoy was competent to stand trial, but Justice Samuel
Alito wondered whether that decision was correct. "If somebody like McCoy
really sincerely believes that he did not commit these physical acts, but it
was all done as part of an elaborate conspiracy, is he capable of assisting in
his own defense?" Alito asked.
English, the trial lawyer, argued consistently that McCoy was in a fragile
emotional state and that he lacked the intent to kill that is necessary for a
jury to impose the death penalty.
English's view of McCoy's chances led him to concede in his opening argument
that McCoy "committed these crimes."
Justice Elena Kagan said she understood English's dilemma, but questioned
whether a lawyer had any choice when a client says his "paramount goal is to
insist until my last breath that I didn't kill my family members."
A decision in McCoy v. Louisiana, 16-8255, is expected by late June.
(source: Associated Press)
Why Indiana should abolish the death penalty
The 11 men are just sitting there, waiting to die.
Frederick Baer, Alton Coleman, Joseph Corcoran, William Gibson, Kevin Isom,
Wayne Kubsch, Michael Overstreet, Benjamin Ritchie, John Stephenson, Jeffrey
Weisheit and Roy Lee Ward make up the sordid roster of Indiana's death row.
Cumulatively, they're responsible for 24 deaths. All the cases are heinous, but
some are just unspeakably awful.
Weisheit duct-taped 2 Vanderburgh County children to chairs and set their house
on fire, burning them alive. Ritchie killed a policeman and during his trial,
when Officer William Toney's wife spoke in court, he laughed and called her a
Then there's Roy Lee Ward: a horrific monster who raped and murdered Dale
teenager Stacy Payne while her little sister hid upstairs.
These men have exhausted any reasonable expectation for human empathy. I would
have no problem seeing Weisheit and Ward killed by the state. They're monsters
and deserve to be treated as such.
But that's not going to happen. The state Supreme Court is still weighing a
Court of Appeals decision to ban the use of Brevital in lethal injections. And
after Brevital, there aren't many options left. Several pharmaceutical
companies have refused to allow their drugs to be used in executions.
Right now, there doesn't seem to be any legal way for Indiana to continue on
this path. It may be time for the state to do what 18 other states have already
done: abolish the death penalty.
2 tales of UFOs invading the Tri-State
It's an unwieldly, expensive, morally dubious albatross that's fading in favor
and may soon have to be hurled out altogether.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, executions peaked in 1999,
when nationwide 98 prisoners were put to death. That number shriveled to 23
last year and dropped to 20 in 2016, which marked the fewest executions since
There have been 3 executions already this year. All of them, unsurprisingly,
took place in Texas.
But Indiana hasn't put anyone to death since Eric Wrinkles in 2009. Aside from
the drug shortage, there are several other reasons for that.
For one, death penalty cases are ridiculously expensive. In 2015, the
Legislative Services Agency did a study for the Indiana legislature. It found
that the average cost for a death penalty trial and its subsequent appeals was
$385,458 -- almost 10 times the bill for a life-without-parole trial ($39,414).
Life without parole is basically what Indiana's death row prisoners are
enduring right now. Hell, Ward was supposed to die 10 years ago.
Plus, the death penalty process exposes deeply racist tendencies in juries.
The majority of death row inmates are white. But a study out of Louisiana found
that juries were 97 % more likely to recommend a death sentence if a victim was
white than if a victim was black.
And in Washington, California and North Carolina, jurors were 3 times as likely
to recommend a death sentence for a black defendant.
None of this addresses the biggest concern - that some death row prisoners are
innocent. The Death Penalty Information Center counts 161 exonerations since
But some aren't. And people such as Weisheit and Ward, who commit the worst
crimes imaginable, deserve something more than sitting in a jail cell for the
rest of their lives.
At your basest instinct, it makes you roots for people like Randall Margraves,
the aggrieved father who begged Judge Janice Cunningham for five minutes alone
with Larry Nassar - the monster who abused countless women, including
Margraves' daughters, during his years as team doctor for USA Gymnastics and
Michigan State University.
But we're stuck with the system we have. The death penalty isn???t working and
we'll likely never find a constitutional way to carry out executions.
We may as well drop all pretense. End the parades of appeals that keep people
like Ward alive, and turn death sentences to life without parole.
Those 11 men are waiting to die. We may as well admit that they're going to be
waiting for awhile.
(source: Jon Webb; Evansville Courier & Press)
Death penalty bill advances out of Iowa Senate subcomittee----Senate
subcommittee voices support
A Senate subcommittee voted 3-2 Monday to support reinstating a limited death
penalty in Iowa after an hour-long debate of Biblical proportions. And there
were indications the debate would become even more expansive if the issue
progresses to the Senate floor.
Proponents and opponents alike used references from the Bible and religious
doctrine to argue in favor of and against Senate Study Bill 3134, a measure
designed to provide a limited deterrent in situations in which someone aged 18
or older kidnaps, rapes and murders a minor or kills a peace officer in the
line of duty.
Under current Iowa law, criminals convicted of a Class A offense is sentenced
to life in prison without parole, which Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller argued
is "a de facto death sentence" in a statement read by a spokesman.
"Defendants convicted of 1st-degree murder in Iowa die in prison," Miller said.
But Sen. Dan Dawson, R-Council Bluffs, said "there has to be a higher penalty"
for perpetrators who commit heinous crimes for which they show no remorse and
who continue to be a threat while they're held in custody or prison.
Sen. Julian Garrett, R-Indianola, who chaired the 5-member subcommittee, said
he is bothered that - without the threat of capital punishment - there is
nothing to deter a perpetrator who kidnaps and rapes a minor from killing the
victim to cover the crime and the absence of a death penalty almost is an
incentive for murder.
"There needs to be something more," Garrett said.
However, Sen. Tony Bisignano, D-Des Moines, who also served on the 5-member
subcommittee and managed a death penalty bill in 1992 that failed to gain
Senate approval, said the issue is too important to be rushed through the
process during "funnel week" and will undergo considerable work if Republicans
choose to move it forward this session.
"This is not the bill to rush," Bisignano said in an interview. "I will do
everything I can to slow the bill down so that people truly have the
opportunity to understand what they're voting for."
If the bill does advance, Bisignano, an opponent of the legislation, said he
would attempt to broaden it into a full-blown death penalty that would be
fairer rather than a limited option.
He also would push for a requirement that the governor be present when a
convicted person is executed, saying "if they're the person signing the death
warrant, then they're the person who should witness the death, and if you don't
have the courage to do that, then that's like hiring a hit man and then it
becomes a political document."
The bill calls for a 2-tiered process whereby an accused perpetrator deemed
mentally competent is tried before a jury or judge. If convicted of a capital
offense eligible for the death penalty, a 2nd, separate review would be
conducted to determine if the person should be put to death via a lethal
The bill has enough votes to advance in the Senate. The overall fate of the
death-penalty issue, however, is uncertain given that a broader reinstatement
bill has stalled in the House.
"I was hoping that we would wait for House action, which looks like there's not
going to be and, if not, I don't understand why the Senate would want to waste
the time and the energy that comes with that type of a bill," Bisignano said.
Garrett said he expected the full Senate Judiciary Committee would take up the
bill yet this week, given the Friday deadline for non-money bills to clear at
least 1 standing committee in the House or Senate to remain eligible for
consideration for session.
"We'll see where it goes from here," he said.
(source: The Gazette)
Segebart: Bring back death penalty, execute Iowa's drug lords----More than 70
people attend Carroll Chamber's legislative forum at DMACC
State Sen. Mark Segebart, R-Vail, said Saturday he would vote yes to restoring
the death penalty in Iowa but also wants to add on another capital offense
charge - drug dealing.
At a Carroll Chamber of Commerce Legislative Forum Saturday at Des Moines Area
Community College in Carroll, Segebart responded yes to the idea of voting for
the death penalty if it makes it to the legislative 2018 session, he said.
Talks of restoring capital punishment in Iowa's legislative 2018 session have
been debated by politicians such as State Sen. Jerry Behn, R-Boone, who wants
to re-instate the death penalty for offenses in which a minor is kidnapped,
raped and murdered. Behn formerly represented Carroll County. Greene County is
in his current sweeping central Iowa district.
Current law in Iowa allows life-sentence convictions to those found guilty of
1st-degree murder and the most serious cases of rape and kidnapping.
Segebart doesn't just want murderers sentenced to death row but drug lords, he
"I believe the bill is specific to certain crimes," Segebart said. "I am not
sure of the specific crimes. One of those is murder, so under those
circumstances I might be in a favor of it. In fact, I might add another
category to it, and that's drug kingpins. There's nothing causing more trouble
in the state of Iowa and our whole country than the drug problem that we
currently have, and for that to go on and continue the way it is, is breaking
up families and ruining the whole fabric of the country, so I think we need to
send a message. While I don't know how far it will get. If it gets to the floor
- I will probably vote for it."
It has been 53 years since capital punishment was last used in Iowa.
Between the years 1834 and 1965, 46 men were executed in Iowa; 43 were executed
for murder and three for rape, according to the Death Penalty Information
Gov. Harold Hughes signed an abolition bill in 1965 to end the death penalty.
In 2016, Iowa's murder rate was 2.3 per 100,000 people. That is less than 1/2
the national average of 5.3 people, according to the Death Penalty Information
Contrary to Segebart's yes, State Rep. Brian Best, R-Glidden, said he does not
agree with the death penalty.
"I would not vote for the death penalty," Best said. "A couple reasons: It's
final. You could never correct a mistake. I think that happens very seldom, but
if it happens once - that's bad. I think it's pretty much common knowledge that
it costs much more to execute somebody than it does to keep them in prison for
the rest of their natural life. For various reasons, I would not vote for the
For Segebart, the problem isn't the drug transporters or the people in charge
of the drug cartels - it's the people selling the drugs to Iowans.
"You know we had a methamphetamine problem," Segebart said." We've had it for a
long time. We slowed it down significantly when we passed the law that you can
only buy so much pseudoephedrine at Wal-Mart at a time. That has lowered the
amount of methamphetamine that has been made in Iowa significantly. Only the
drug cartel from Mexico has picked up the slack and is coming with a much more
potent product that was produced by the pseudoephedrine type of cooking of
methamphetamine. The transporter here is not the problem. It's the person
that's supplying it on the other end."
Segebart answered a follow-up question from Bethany Sweeney, a DMACC in Carroll
English and history instructor, who asked if the senator also thinks those
addicted to methamphetamine should be charged with capital punishment.
"No, but I would support help to get them off methamphetamine," Segebart said.
"That's the most important issue here. Meth and its run through Iowa was a drug
that could have you so addicted to it that you couldn't get yourself off of it.
The only place you could go to find help for that was go to jail.
Unfortunately, that's still the case."
Segebart said that someone who is addicted to meth has a worthless life.
"Where you end up if you get caught for possession is in jail, and at that
point, there should be some remedy to get you back off of it because if you're
hooked for life on this stuff. Your life is worthless, literally," Segebart
More than 70 people attended the hour-long forum, which covered other topics
such as a recent question of legality for Carroll store owners.
Recently, local stores Nature Ammil and Healing Arts Center in Carroll were
raided by the Carroll City Police Department.
Both stores were caught selling CBD oil or Cannabidiol.
Carrie Bluml, the owner of Nature Ammil, asked at the forum what the state
senators would do to clarify what the police department calls "the gray area"
in the law. Both senators were unsure of the specifics of the law regarding
hemp-derived CBD oil and medical CBD oil, which contains THC.
Best said he thinks CBD oils and creams should be legal, but said he would look
into the incident further by talking with the Iowa Department of Public Health.
"I would be in favor of trying to find a way to allow this to be sold," Best
said. "Unless I find out there's a down side. I just don't see how anybody is
going to take a cream, and if you've got arthritis and you're rubbing it on
your wrist or something - I don't see how you would be able to get high from
(source: Daily Times Herald)
ARIZONA----death row inmate dies
Mohave County man on death row dies of natural causes
1 of 7 Mohave County inmates sitting on Arizona's death row died Friday of
Graham Saunders Henry, 71, was convicted and sentenced in February 1995 on
charges of 1st-degree murder, kidnapping, theft and robbery for kidnapping and
killing an elderly Las Vegas man in a remote desert about 40 miles north of
Kingman in June 1986, according to the state department of corrections.
Henry was assigned to the state prison in Florence. All inmate deaths are
investigated with the county's medical examiner's office.
Mohave County has 2 death penalty cases currently pending in Superior Court.
Justin James Rector, 28, is charged with 1st-degree murder in the Sept. 2,
2014, death of 8-year-old Isabella Grogan-Cannella and leaving her body near
her Bullhead City home. His next hearing is set for June 2.
Darrell Bryant Ketchner, 59, faces the possibility of the death penalty if
convicted a 2nd time for the July 4, 2009, murder of Ariel Allison, 18, in
Kingman. His 1st conviction for 1st-degree murder was overturned in December
(source: Mohave Valley Daily News)
District attorney to seek death penalty for Michael Mejia, the gang member
accused of killing Whittier Police Officer Keith Boyer
The Los Angeles man accused of killing one Whittier police officer and wounding
another in a shootout on Colima Road last February is scheduled to appear in
court Friday, where a deputy district attorney said prosecutors will announce
they're seeking the death penalty in the case.
Michael Christopher Mejia faces 2 counts of murder, 1 count of attempted murder
and 1 count of carjacking in connection with the shootings in East Los Angeles
and Whittier, said Deputy District Attorney Garrett Dameron.
In an email, Dameron said there would be "no chance" of a plea deal for Mejia.
Officials believe the 27-year-old Mejia is responsible for a pair of deadly
shootings on Feb. 20, 2017. Police said the man first shot his cousin,
47-year-old Roy Torres, to death in an East Los Angeles converted garage,
before stealing the victim's car.
Hours later, police said Mejia crashed that car at Colima Road and Mar Vista
Street. After 2 Whittier officers responded, police said Mejia shot them both.
Officer Keith Boyer was killed, while Officer Patrick Hazell was wounded.
Mejia was also wounded in the brief shootout.
His Friday appearance is scheduled for 9 a.m. at Norwalk Superior Court. Mejia
pleaded not guilty in May 2017.
Mejia previously testified that he told two detectives that he was high on
marijuana and other drugs at the time of the shooting. He also told the
detectives he blacked out after being shot, and only remembered the incident
later after watching news reports about it on television.
Investigators have not released any information indicating whether Mejia had
drugs in his system the day of the shooting.
In June 2017, a pair of witnesses to the shooting who were riding in the car
Mejia is suspected of crashing testified that the suspect asked how they were
after colliding with them. One helped push Mejia's cousin's disabled car from
southbound Colima to eastbound Mar Vista.
"He told me that he didn't own the car, and he didn't have any insurance," said
Ching Ta Chin through a court interpreter. "He told me to come closer to get
information, but I said, 'OK, but we can wait for the officers.'"
After he returned to his car, Chin said he heard shots coming from where the
silver car had stopped.
The same month, prosecutors released audio of an interview with Mejia conducted
the same day as the shooting, in which he laid out the timeline for the gun
"I know I smoked this one," Mejia said to the investigators, apparently
referring to Boyer. "Yet the 2nd one. Could not get him."
Police said Mejia was a known gang member with a history of cycling in an out
of prison. At the time of the shooting, he was on probation for an auto theft
conviction in 2016. The shooting led to local elected officials calling for
changes to several prison reform laws, like A.B. 109 and the voter-initiated
Propositions 47 and 57.
Boyer's killing almost 1 year ago - only the 3rd in the history of the Whittier
police, and the 1st since 1979 - led to an outpouring of support from the
community for the fallen officer's family. About 4,000 people, many fellow
members of law enforcement, attend his March 2017 funeral.
(source: Whittier Daily News)
Illegal alien cop killer found guilty in slayings; now faces death penalty
Luis Enriquez Bracamontes, an illegal immigrant accused of killing 2 California
deputies in 2014, was found guilty of their killings on Friday in Sacramento
Bracamontes, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, shot and killed Sacramento
County Sheriff's Deputy Danny Oliver and Placer County Sheriff's Deputy Michael
Davis Jr. in 2014.
Bracamontes, who was deported from the U.S. multiple times on drug-related
charges, carjacked several people during a day of mayhem in October 2014 and
killed 2 officers during his attempt to flee.
When Oliver approached Bracamontes' suspect vehicle - which was parked in the
parking lot of a Motel 6 - Bracamontes fired a round into Oliver's head,
killing him. During his flight from authority, Bracamontes ran over Oliver's
lifeless body in an attempt to get away.
Bracamontes and his wife fled to a nearby neighborhood and attempted to carjack
a man. When the man resisted, Bracamontes reportedly shot the man 5 times, 3 of
which were in the face. The man miraculously survived his injuries.
After carjacking several more vehicles, Bracamontes and his wife faced off with
authorities, injuring several of them and killing Davis.
Bracamontes fled once again, barricading himself in a nearby home and opening
up the stove's gas valves in what appeared to be a suicide bid.
Before he could follow through with killing himself, Bracamontes surrendered to
law enforcement, pleading with them not to kill him.
What happened in court?
After about 5 hours of deliberation, a jury on Friday found Bracamontes guilty
in the officers' murders.
The Sacramento Bee reported that Bracamontes was found guilty on what would
have been Oliver's 51st birthday.
Bracamontes quietly said, "Yay," as the verdict was read, and later blew kisses
to the victims' families.
As he was being ushered out of the courtroom, Bracamontes promised that he
would kill more law enforcement officers in coming days.
"I'm going to kill more cops soon," he said.
This isn't the 1st time Bracamontes has acted erratically inside the courtroom.
Bracamontes, in a January court appearance, laughed about slaying the officers,
noting that he'd wished he'd killed more of them during his crime spree.
"I don't regret that s**t," Bracamontes laughed, grinning at the jury. "Only
thing that I f***ing regret is that I just killed 2. I wish I had killed more
of the motherf***ers.???
Bracamontes warned the court that he'd break out of jail soon, and kill more
"I will break out soon and I will kill more, kill whoever f***ing gets in front
of me," he added. "There's no need for a f***ing trial."
Fox News on Saturday reported that prosecutors will seek the death penalty for
Bracamontes was found guilty on 15 different charges, which, aside from the
murder charges, include attempted murder, gun charges, and carjacking.
The sentencing portion of Bracamontes' trial begins March 5.
How IQ tests are used to justify the death penalty
As a concept, IQ is terrible. The idea that we can reduce intelligence to a
simple number, quantifiable in a test, exacerbates inequality in numerous
racist, classist, sexist, and ableist ways. Not only do people have worth
beyond their measurable cognitive ability, but IQ also routinely awards higher
numbers to abled middle- and upper-class white males, reinforcing pre-existing
ideologies in the name of "science." Over the last many decades, scholars and
activists have pushed back against the regime of IQ testing in all contexts,
Now, prosecutors in at least 8 states have been hiring experts to testify about
the racist use of IQ in order to kill more black and brown men.
The Supreme Court has slowly been carving out exemptions to the death penalty
for people with intellectual disabilities. In 2002, the Supreme Court ruled in
Atkins v. Virginia that people with intellectual disabilities could not be
executed, but left it up to the states to determine who is or is not eligible
for that protection. In 2014, in Hall v. Florida, the court ruled that a state
can't use a simple IQ cut-off. Then, in last year's Moore v. Texas, the court
ruled that states must consider the best psychiatric and medical information
about disability when determining disabled status. Still, IQ testing continues
to play a major role, with a threshold of around 70 serving as the cutoff
score, below which a person cannot legally be executed.
Here's where "ethnic adjustments" come in. The practice, as documented by
attorney Robert Sanger in a 2015 article in the American University Law Review,
adjusts IQ scores upward for people of color convicted of capital crimes.
According to Sanger, prosecutors in Florida, Texas, Alabama, Tennessee,
Missouri, California, Pennsylvania, and Ohio have all used ethnic adjustments
to successfully impose the death penalty on people who otherwise might have
been deemed exempt. In his article, Sanger works methodically through case
after case, noting in particular the role played by expert witnesses for the
prosecution, who testify to the racial biases of IQ testing. In most cases,
these experts have never met the person convicted of the capital crime or
assessed that person for disability, even as their testimony clears the way for
At the end of his article, Sanger writes, "The idea of racially classifying a
person and then using 'ethnic adjustments' to increase his or her IQ score,
thereby qualifying that person for execution, is logically, clinically, and
constitutionally unsound. In fact, when looked at more closely, it is a wonder
how the practice has gone largely unchallenged over the last few years." When I
spoke to him over the phone, Sanger confirmed to me that no clear
constitutional challenge to the practice has emerged to his knowledge, and
certainly not at the United States Supreme Court, or in California, where he
As I wrote last year, most people on death row are disabled. In reporting the
story, I found that this fact presents a challenge to people trying to save
lives: Do they fight for total abolition of the death penalty, or do they try
to carve out ever-increasing exemptions? Everyone who ends up on death row has
experienced a complex panoply of mitigating factors - intersecting
disabilities, traumas, and inequities - that led them to be convicted of a
capital crime. So anti-death-penalty lawyers look for narrow legal strategies
to protect their specific clients, which of course is just what they should do,
while slowly pushing new exemptions up through the court process to seek new
exculpatory precedents. Atkins, Hall, and Moore - the big 3 Supreme Court
decisions protecting people from intellectual disabilities - are the result of
these Herculean efforts.
It's not enough. As Sanger writes, "A more profound conclusion of this article
may be that the project of attempting to determine who should live and die is
an endeavor lost from the beginning. Perhaps there is no way to devise a just
means to implement an unjust result. If the state's executing prisoners is
wrong, there can be no right way to do it." He's correct. Racism, ableism, and
classism are too deeply held for incremental efforts to effect true change.
Even the anti-racist work against the tyranny of the IQ test is being used to
perpetuate the state's killing of people of color. Abolition is the only
(source: David Perry; theweek.com)
Christensen trial pushed to April 2019
The trial for accused kidnapper and killer Brendt Christensen has been pushed
back to April 2, 2019.
U.S. District Court Judge Colin Bruce set the date at a scheduling hearing
Monday that lasted about 20 minutes.
Jury selection is scheduled to begin April 3, 2019, with the actual trial
scheduled to begin April 9.
Neither the prosecutors nor Christensen's attorneys objected to the new
Christensen, who attended the hearing but did not speak at it, was arrested
June 30, 2017, 3 weeks after visiting University of Illinois visiting scholar
Yingying Zhang, 26, of China, was last seen. He was indicted on a single charge
of kidnapping, which was upgraded in October to kidnapping resulting in death
and lying to federal agents.
On Jan. 19, the government filed notice that it would seek the death penalty,
leading both sides to agree that a delay to the trial previously scheduled for
Feb. 27 would be necessary.
Capital cases require more work for both sides, but especially the defense
lawyers, who have to prepare for the penalty phase at the same time they are
building a defense to Christensen???s alleged crimes.
Prosecutors had asked that the trial be delayed until October, while
Christensen's attorneys sought a delay until June 2019.
While leaving the federal courthouse in Urbana, Christensen's lawyers declined
to talk with reporters.
(source: The News-Gazette)
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