Jury: Arizona convict eligible for death penalty

Published on NewsOK Modified: November 5, 2013 at 4:15 pm •  Published: November 5, 2013
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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A federal jury on Tuesday found an Arizona inmate eligible for the death penalty for murdering an Oklahoma couple following his 2010 prison break.

After less than a day of deliberations, the jury ruled John McCluskey acted willfully and intentionally when he kidnapped and killed retirees Gary and Linda Haas of Tecumseh, Okla., as they passed through New Mexico on an annual camping trip to Colorado.

McCluskey, 48, sat staring toward the jury but showed no emotion when the judge read the decision.

The jury now returns Wednesday for what is expected to be weeks of additional testimony before deciding whether McCluskey should be executed or sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Gary Haas' younger sister, Linda Rook, said death is the only fitting punishment in the case.

"He was already serving life terms, so how else can he be punished?" she said.

In its attempt to spare McCluskey's life, the defense called several neurological experts who said McCluskey is incapable of controlling his impulses and making reasoned decisions because of brain abnormalities, an abusive childhood and his long history of drug and alcohol abuse.

To be eligible for the death penalty under federal law, the jury had to find that McCluskey intentionally killed more than one person, was at least 18 and had previous convictions for violent crimes.

During closing arguments in the first phase of the penalty trial, defense attorney Teri Duncan said jurors should spare McCluskey the death penalty not of out of sympathy, but out of understanding of how his brain works and because of his inability to control his impulses.

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