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June 7, 2011

Some family members of Ohio mass murderer victims want plea deal, not death penalty, for "closure"

As detailed in this new AP story, a high-profile mass murder case in Ohio has today prompted a high-profile plea for a plea deal from family members of the murder victims.  The piece is headlined "Relatives of Cleveland victims seek plea deal in Sowell case," and here are excerpts:

Some relatives of 11 women allegedly killed by a man on trial are seeking a plea deal to spare the emotional ordeal of seeing the "horrors" play out in court, two attorneys representing families said today.

The attorneys said relatives of at least six victims have signed an appeal asking Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason to strike a deal in the case against Anthony Sowell, 51.  "They are concerned about the emotional trauma that the trial is going to cause on their families," Christine LaSalvia said.

"They are really just looking for closure. And I think, just as a way of avoiding reliving what happened and the horrors of what happened, they would prefer not to go through the trial." Her law partner, Jeffrey Friedman, said prosecutors should consider the feelings of family members when deciding whether to strike a last-minute deal. "The victims' families' feelings should be taken into consideration," he said.

Mason said Friday he was determined to get the death penalty. A plea deal likely would mean sparing Sowell's life in return for a guilty plea.

Friedman said a life sentence without parole would be similar to a conviction, death sentence and Sowell dying in prison awaiting the outcome of many years of appeals. Mason's office didn't immediately respond to a request for renewed comment today....

The families' appeal for a plea deal was first reported by WEWS-TV, which said the signed petitions would be delivered to Mason's office. LaSalvia said the number of signatures and delivery schedule were "a work in progress."

Jury selection entered the second day today for Sowell, who has pleaded not guilty. The trial is expected to last several weeks. Prosecutors say Sowell lured women from his inner-city Cleveland neighborhood into his home with the promise of alcohol or drugs, then killed them. The women disappeared one by one, starting in October 2007. The last one vanished in September 2009.

June 7, 2011 at 05:11 PM | Permalink

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Comments

1. Why should the wishes of family members who want LWOP take precedence over those who want the DP?

2. Didn't we just see a few days ago, in the posting about the double vehicular homicide in which the killer got no jail time, what a complete travesty of justice results when the court goes along with the interests of private parties over the interests of the citizenry? The lenient result there was so atrocious the local public defender denounced it.

3. Someone ought to take the word "closure" out of circulation. The only thing that could create actual "closure" is bringing back the murdered family members. As long as they're dead, there isn't going to be "closure" -- the hole where they used to be will always be there. There will only be a mass killer in jail filing seriatim habeas petitions claiming it's an Eighth Amendment violation for the state to refuse to get him a bigger TV. Some "closure."

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 7, 2011 5:30:33 PM

"Why should the wishes of family members who want LWOP take precedence over those who want the DP?"

Say this was a case where every single family member wanted LWOP. Would you have a problem with it then, or would it be a case where the extreme nature of the crime would require the death penalty, in your view?

Posted by: The Death Penalty Sucks. | Jun 7, 2011 7:44:35 PM

TDPS --

I always have a problem when a public official (in your hypothetical, the prosecutor) forgets that his client is the public and not private parties, no matter how appealing their status. The very first thing you have to be clear about when you're a lawyer is the identity of your client. This might be easier to see if you turn the hypo around: Suppose all the family members wanted the DP, but the prosecutor, left to his own devices, would be disinclined to seek it. Would you then say that he should abandon his assessment in order to defer to the families?

That said, if EVERY family member of ALL ELEVEN murder victims wanted to avoid the DP, you would have to think there is some feature of the case that, even from the public's standpoint, provokes such an unusual response. Whatever that feature is should be included by the prosecutor in his thinking about what penalty to seek -- included along with every other feature, e.g., the fact that we have multiple murder over a span of two years.

I don't know how these victims were killed. In cases like this, it often turns out to be a ghastly, drawn-out, dungeon/sex/torture/murder sort of thing. That too would have to be included in thinking about the penalty.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 7, 2011 11:40:50 PM

Any trial time over a day, and any delay of execution over one hour is straight lawyer thievin'. The victims of other murderers should form a direct action group and horsewhip the judge and the thievin' lawyers. Then identify the murderer loving legislators enabling this scam, do the same. Harsh corporal punishment is fully justified by the bad faith of these thievin' lawyers, and by their self-dealt immunity from any tort liability. They play games to make money off the suffering of crime victims, and do nothing to protect the public, Job One and Job Last of Government. They deserve no human consideration since they show none to millions of crime victims.

To deter.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 8, 2011 12:42:16 AM

I don't know how these victims were killed. In cases like this, it often turns out to be a ghastly, drawn-out, dungeon/sex/torture/murder sort of thing. That too would have to be included in thinking about the penalty.

Posted by: cheap customized jerseys | Jun 8, 2011 5:17:07 AM

I personally believe that LWOP is worse than the death penalty in many cases. It is certainly a subjective issue.

Posted by: Stanley Feldman | Jun 8, 2011 2:12:37 PM

There Otis goes again. If this victim impact info was seeking to hang the defendant from the highest tree, Otis would be touting the importance of victim impact testimony or evidence. Nice try, Bill.

Posted by: Steve Prof | Jun 8, 2011 9:00:13 PM

"If this victim impact info was seeking to hang the defendant from the highest tree, Otis would be touting the importance of victim impact testimony or evidence."

This is 100% false, and thus understandably comes without a single quotation from, or citation to, anything I have said.

I would say, "Nice try," but for the fact that it's neither nice nor even much of a try. It's just an ad hominem fabrication.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 11, 2011 6:16:29 AM

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