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Washington Judge Removes Death Penalty For Alleged Cop-Killer

Sara Jean Green of the Seattle Times reports that King County Superior Court Chief Criminal Judge Ronald Kessler removed the death penalty from the case of alleged cop-killer Christopher Monfort in Washington on Friday.

Monfort is accused of fatally shooting Officer Timothy Brenton and wounding Officer Britt Sweeney on October 31, 2009. The officers were parked in their patrol car when Monfort allegedly pulled up alongside them, shooting into their vehicle. Nine days prior, Monfort allegedly blasted four police vehicles with incendiary bombs; one was rigged to explode upon the arrival of responding officers. Monfort was nonfatally shot and apprehended outside his apartment on November 6, 2009 by detectives during a confrontation. He allegedly tried to shoot and kill Seattle Police Sgt. Gary Nelson. Police found a manifesto against police brutality, explosives, and guns in his home. Monfort's lawyers told the court this month that the insanity defense would be pursued.

Judge Kessler ruled that a 'flawed and minimalist' investigation was carried out by King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg. Kessler said Satterburg left out mitigating factors which could have meant Monfort would face life in prison rather than the death penalty. Satterburg made the decision to pursue the death penalty without waiting for Monfort's defense to submit any mitigating evidence for him to consider. However, the case could continue as a capital case to not delay the trial.

In a statement released later Friday, Satterberg's office said, "We believe today's decision is wrong and we will appeal it to the Washington State Supreme Court."

"State law calls for the prosecutor to consider any evidence of mitigation prior to making a death penalty decision," the statement read. "In this case, the defense refused to provide any information to the prosecution.  The prosecution gave the defense team ten months to provide mitigation information, which is nine months longer than state law requires.  In the absence of any information from the defense, the prosecution considered all available mitigating information and decided it was not sufficient to merit leniency."

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