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12/4/2013 2:09:00 PM
Death penalty arguments made as McCluskey's case nears its end
John McCluskey
John McCluskey

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Arizona inmate John McCluskey is a dangerous, cold-blooded killer who deserves nothing less than the death penalty for kidnapping and murdering a retired Oklahoma couple after a prison break, prosecutors said Wednesday.

A life sentence for John McCluskey "would be like putting a child in the corner," Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Warbel told jurors during closing arguments in McCluskey's death penalty trial.

Defense attorney Gary Mitchell, however, told jurors McCluskey "is a human, he's a man," with a low IQ who has suffered a hard life of abuse, brain damage, a prison rape and addiction.

McCluskey shouldn't have to pay the ultimate price "because the good lord didn't bless him with what you and I have," Mitchell said.

"Life in prison without release is more than sufficient," Mitchell told the jury. "It's a horrific sentence."

McCluskey, 48, was convicted in October of murder, carjacking and other charges in the August 2010 deaths of Gary and Linda Haas of Tecumseh, Okla., as they passed through New Mexico.

Warbel said serious crimes deserve serious punishment.

"The defendant wants you to sentence him to life in prison," he said. Warbel noted McCluskey is a repeat violent criminal who has spent much of his life behind bars and is used to a routine that includes meals, coffee, showers and exercise.

"Don't give the defendant what he's asking for. Give him what he deserves."

It was 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.

McCluskey was serving 15 years for attempted second-degree murder, aggravated assault and discharge of a firearm when he and two other prisoners escaped from Arizona State Prison-Kingman in July 2010 with the help of his cousin and fiancee, Casslyn Welch.

One of the inmates was quickly captured after a shootout with authorities in Colorado. McCluskey, Welch and inmate Tracy Province headed to New Mexico, where they kidnapped the Haases for their truck and travel trailer.

Province and Welch pleaded guilty last year to carjacking resulting in death, conspiracy, use of a firearm during a violent crime and other charges. They both fingered McCluskey as the triggerman.

The victims were high school sweethearts and recent retirees from General Motors. They were making their 11th summer trip to Colorado when they were killed.

The slayings happened three days after the prison break that Welch testified was funded by a drug smuggling ring she and McCluskey ran for prison inmates.

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Related Stories:
• Jury continues deliberations in death penalty case
• Jury: Kingman prison escapee eligible for death penalty
• Defense: Prison escapee has defective brain
• Defense: McCluskey doesn't deserve the death penalty
• Witnesses won't waver in murder trial for Kingman prison escapee

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, December 5, 2013
Article comment by: tired of caring

"The defendant wants you to give him life."
How about NO. All I've seen since this trial started has been this guy getting what he wants.

Im sick of it. dont get to tells us how you should be punished. Your attorney can babble on and on about how terrible your life has been, or how God held back a couple tid bits most others recieved leaving you broken.

We as in most people following this dont care what this guy wants anymore. We want him Gone. No more meals, coffee, exercise, or avoiding facing his maker on our dime.

Spent one dollar for a large caliber reloaded cartridge and burn some powder. Done, finished, over with, and GONE.

Thats the closer needed here.

Posted: Thursday, December 5, 2013
Article comment by: Nikki B

Seems to me that if he already escaped once, and he's a repeat offender, and he's killed people, then it's time to escalate the response. $0.50 solution should be imminent.

Posted: Thursday, December 5, 2013
Article comment by: D W

Can anyone give 1 GOOD reason why this guy is still breathing? And if you can, imagine if his victims were part of your family then try and find one. Come on. I dont understand why this kind of thing is drawn out for so long when there is no doubt that he is guilty of doing the things he is on trial for. This man will NEVER be a useful part of society, able to be trusted outside prison walls (if they an keep him in). I say put one in his head and move on...

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