Closing arguments expected in rare NM capital case

By JERI CLAUSING, AP Published: December 4, 2013
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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Nearly six months after jury selection began, closing arguments were expected Wednesday in the death penalty trial of an Arizona inmate who kidnapped and murdered a retired Oklahoma couple while on the lam.

John McCluskey, 48, was convicted in early October of murder, carjacking and other charges in the August 2010 deaths of Gary and Linda Haas of Tecumseh, Okla., who were making their annual summer trek to Colorado. Jurors then had to decide if McCluskey was eligible for the death sentence.

Now, the same panel will decide whether McCluskey should be executed or spend the rest of his life in prison with no chance for parole in what is only the second federal death penalty case to be deliberated in the state in a decade.

New Mexico outlawed the death penalty for state crimes in 2009.

Anything less than execution for McCluskey would not be justice, federal prosecutors told jurors at the start of the third and final phase of the trial.

McCluskey's defense team, meanwhile, had argued their client's life should be spared, saying brain damage, a troubled childhood and long-term drug and alcohol abuse made him incapable of controlling his impulses and making reasoned decisions.


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