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Deciding killer's fate took much thought

By Johnny Johnson Published: March 9, 2008
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/> For jurors such as Earl Garrett, 64, of Oklahoma City, the choice was easy.

During jury selection, Garrett revealed that he once shot a home invader in self-defense and was charged with aggravated assault as a young man after someone else came at him

with a knife and "lost.”

Garrett said he didn't think he'd lose any sleep knowing his signature was on Underwood's death warrant.

He said he expected the opposite.

Garrett felt so strongly that he took a hard line with the two jurors who were holding out for life without parole.

"I told them the facts and had to hurt their feelings a little bit,” he said. "I wasn't there to make friends. I think that for what he did he deserved to die.”

When two women were initially intent on life without parole, Garrett said he felt it was time to look at some of the evidence.

"They didn't want to look at the (autopsy) pictures,” he said. "But I thought it was time to look at them, because if he had not been caught this time, he would do it again.

"He acted like he couldn't care less and that he was getting some attention out of this.

"It hurts to know you're sending a man to die, but he killed this little girl. He signed his own death warrant. And now we don't have to worry about him doing it again, so I think I can live with that.”

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District attorney discusses trial
For Greg Mashburn, allowing convicted killer Kevin Ray Underwood to continue breathing was never an option — not after hearing that eerie matter-of-fact confession that is now burned into the Cleveland County district attorney's mind.

"There are murder cases where life without parole is appropriate,” Mashburn said.

"But this was not the case. And if I thought that was justice, I would have pleaded it over a year ago.”

So for more than a year, he prepared, until the only thing left was convincing 12 others that taking the life of a human being — even one with obvious mental disorders — is sometimes the right thing to do.

Mashburn said he was pleased with the jury's decision and appreciated the tremendous burden involved in deciding someone's fate.

But ultimately, he said, they made the right choice.

At first blush, even those who support the death penalty might wonder if the state would be best served by Underwood's death.

Couldn't psychologists study his mind ?

Mashburn said the defense called three mental health experts to interview Underwood, 28, and none of them could ever really get inside the man's mind to find out why he chose to act out his fantasies.

As sick as some people's thoughts are, Mashburn explained, having sick thoughts is not a crime.

"They studied him backwards and forwards,” Mashburn said. "And they got all the info they could get out of him. There's nothing else to study.”

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