Why do prosecutors opt out use of death penalty?

Why prosecutors may reconsider death penalty

ST. BERNARD PARISH- The case of an accused ax-murderer in St. Bernard Parish is moving ahead without the death penalty. 

Prosecutors made the decision Tuesday not to pursue the death penalty against Mark Owens. Investigators say back in September, the 56-year-old Chalmette man used an ax to kill his ex-wife, Kim Owens. 

"The day that I heard this guy had done that, Oh, I wept for her family," resident Elizabeth Mahoney said. 

Mahoney understands the pain Kim Owens' family feels. Her own daughter India Mahoney died after her estranged husband shot her in January 2009. 

"We were standing right here. And she died right here in this hallway," Mahoney said. 

Elizabeth Mahoney's 18-year-old daughter, India, had gotten into an argument with her husband, Charles Richardson. As Elizabeth was trying to calm her daughter down, Richardson came out of a bedroom with a gun. 

"When he shot her, he came up to her face and so the last thing she saw was this man putting a gun to her face," Mahoney said. 

Elizabeth herself, was shot three times in the head and neck, and had to undergo reconstructive surgery. As much as Elizabeth wanted her husband to suffer, she knew life in prison was her best option for justice. 

"Having served on a jury, it's just so hard to get 12 people to see the same thing at the same time," Mahoney said. 

"There is a re-thinking of the death penalty among conservatives and progressives alike," Loyola Law Professor Dane Ciolino said. 

Ciolino says there are a number of reasons why prosecutors may reconsider pursing the death penalty, even in the most gruesome murders. 

"The cost of pursing death penalty cases is astronomical, in comparison with non-capital cases. A death case costs at least 10 times more to bring and defend than a non-capital case," Ciolino said. 

Ciolino says appeals can be very lengthy and can force the family to relive an already painful ordeal.

"When they're told by prosecutors about the amount of time it takes to go through the appeals and the post conviction process, they want closure. And the closure...always comes a lot more quickly when you're talking about a non capital case as opposed to a capital case," Professor Ciolino said. 

Richardson did receive a life sentence. Although it doesn't bring India back, Elizabeth knows she can find comfort in knowing he doesn't have a chance of getting out of prison. Having gone through the process, she can only pray for the family of Kimberly Owens. 

Professor Ciolio says there are still plenty of reasons why prosecutors may still go after the death penalty. For instance, if more than one person was the targeted victim, if the victims were very young or very old, or if a law enforcement officer or first responder was killed. 

There have been 28 executions in the state of Louisiana since the Supreme Court ruling in 1977. Though the state's first was in 1983. 12 of the 28 have come from the Greater New Orleans Area. The last execution was Gerald Bordelon back in January 2010. 

The state will not conduct any executions until at least 2018 after a court order was issued challenging the constitutionality of the state's lethal injection process. 

© 2017 WWL-TV


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