DA seeks death penalty in slaying of prison worker
An inmate accused in the 2002 slaying of a prison worker will be placed on
trial and prosecutors will seek the death penalty after a judge Tuesday allowed
the suspect to withdraw his guilty plea.
Edward Montour Jr., already serving a life sentence in the 1997 death of his
11-month-old daughter, is accused of killing Eric Autobee, 23, by striking him
in the head with a heavy kitchen ladle at Limon Correctional Facility. Montour
represented himself in the case and in January 2003, barely three months after
the slaying, pleaded guilty to 1st-degree murder.
He told his advisory attorneys that he wanted to die by execution, according to
The case has lingered in court for more than 10 years following a judge's
imposition of the death penalty, which was later thrown out by the Colorado
Supreme Court. The court ruled in 2007 that only a jury, not a judge, can hand
down death sentences.
While prosecutors have been seeking a penalty phase trial so a jury can impose
the death penalty, Montour's defense attorneys have been trying to strike a
deal that would spare Montour's life.
An offer to have Montour plead guilty and serve a life sentence in solitary
confinement was rejected by prosecutors, attorney David Lane said, and Douglas
County District Judge Richard B. Caschette on Tuesday allowed Montour to
withdraw his guilty plea, setting the stage for a new trial. Caschette said in
his ruling that he could not allow Montour's calculated plan of state-assisted
In giving up a 1st-degree murder conviction, all for the sake of attempting to
get a death penalty, all things are possible now in this case including a
verdict of not guilty after trial, Lane said in a statement.
Many prosecutors who support the death penalty have long argued that it remains
the sole deterrent against inmates who are already serving life sentences from
killing prison guards. District Attorney George Brauchler, who earlier this
month announced that he would seek the death penalty for Aurora theater
shooting suspect James Holmes, said the death penalty in this case sends the
message that killing prison guards will not be tolerated.
When a man already serving a life sentence kills a prison guard, a 'new' life
sentence defies justice, common sense, and makes the taking of Eric Autobee's
life a 'freebie,' Brauchler said in a statement.
Autobee's family opposes the death penalty, but Brauchler said he's taking
prison workers' safety into consideration.
The day before he was fatally shot while answering his front door, Colorado
Department of Corrections Executive Director Tom Clements testified at the
Legislature on behalf of improved prison worker safety. Clements' March 19
slaying remains unsolved.
Former inmate and white supremacist prison gang member Evan Ebel had the gun
used in Clements' slaying when he died in a shootout with Texas authorities.
Authorities have not said what role they believe Ebel played in Clements'
slaying or whether others were involved.
An associate of Ebel's is in custody while another remains at large. El Paso
County sheriff's officials say both are persons of interest in Clements'
Until Autobee's death in 2002, no corrections officer had been killed since
1929. Since Autobee's slaying, Sgt. Mary Ricard, 55, was killed last September
while breakfast was being prepared for inmates at the Arkansas Valley
Correctional Facility, and then Clements died at his home in Monument.
(source: Associated Press)
Utah on the wrong side of history
Last month, the state of Maryland became the eighteenth state in the U.S. to do
away with the death penalty. In which direction do you think this issue is
going? Will the number of states with the death penalty increase or decrease?
While working for the U.S. Department of Justice, I assisted Poland and Albania
with criminal justice issues surrounding requirements for European Union
membership. Dissolving the death penalty is required for membership in the EU.
Besides Texas, what state do you think will be one of the last to give up the
Statistically, the death penalty in America is racially misrepresented.
According to the last U.S. census, African Americans account for approximately
13 % of our population. African Americans currently account for 42.6 % of the
people on death row. I ask you to visualize the metaphor portrayed in Lady
Justice. Blindfolded with a scale in one hand and a sword in the other - do you
think she can see these percentages? I'm not suggesting these people are
innocent. I'm challenging our solution.
It is important to point out that of the 13 % of African Americans in the
United States, half are women. There are very few women on death row in
America. In addition, of the 13 % of African-Americans in the U.S. 1/3 are
children. We do not execute