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10/21/2013 1:09:00 PM
Defense: McCluskey doesn't deserve the death penalty

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - An Arizona convict who murdered a retired Oklahoma couple following a 2010 prison escape should be spared the death penalty because he is incapable of controlling his impulses and making reasoned decisions, defense attorneys argued Monday.

Attorney Teri Dugan told jurors the defense will present testimony during the sentencing phase of John McCluskey's capital murder trial that will show his mental capacity was reduced by brain abnormalities, emotional and physical abuse by his father, and a long history of drug and alcohol abuse.

McCluskey, 48, was convicted Oct. 7 of murder, carjacking and other charges in the August 2010 deaths of Gary and Linda Haas of Tecumseh, Okla., following a four-week trial. The jury returned Monday after a two-week break for what U.S. District Judge Judith Herrera said could be six more weeks of testimony on whether McCluskey should be sentenced to death or life in prison.

One of the conditions of imposing the death sentence is that the defendant be at least 18 years of age. Duncan said that while the defense will not try to argue that McCluskey has the brain of a juvenile, "you will hear his brain is damaged and like a child he does not make decisions like we do."

Duncan said McCluskey's mother always joked that her son was "born ass-backwards" because he was breech. He also told jurors McCluskey's father severely abused him, often saying a "child that stupid couldn't be his." McCluskey's father "acted as if he wanted to beat a new brain into his child," Duncan said.

Prosecutor Michael Warbel, meanwhile, detailed McCluskey's violent criminal history and current conviction on 20 counts of aggravated murder and other charges as having already met the necessary tests for the death penalty.

"He is eligible for the death penalty because of who he is and what he has done in the past," Warbel said. "He has put guns in people's faces before and he has shot people before."

Among those expected to testify in support of the death penalty are relatives of the Haases, who were making their annual summer trek to Colorado when they crossed paths with McCluskey and two other fugitives seeking a better vehicle for their getaway.

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 a medium-security prison near Kingman, Ariz., in July 2010 with the help of his cousin and fiancee, Casslyn Welch.

One inmate quickly captured after a shootout with authorities in Colorado, while McCluskey, Welch and inmate Tracy Province headed to New Mexico. Their escape and ensuing crimes sparked a nationwide manhunt and an Interpol alert.

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

They both fingered McCluskey as the triggerman.

The victims, who were high school sweethearts and recent retirees from General Motors, were making their 11th summer trip to Colorado when they were killed three days after the prison break.

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Related Stories:
• Kingman prison escapee to get life in prison for murders
• Death penalty arguments made as McCluskey's case nears its end
• Jury: Kingman prison escapee eligible for death penalty
• Defense: Prison escapee has defective brain

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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Article comment by: Jamie West

The defense position as regards McCluskey is emblematic of the current thinking in this country that literally everyone is somehow a "victim" and specious in the extreme.
"Attorney Teri Dugan told jurors... .... his mental capacity was reduced by brain abnormalities, emotional and physical abuse by his father, and a long history of drug and alcohol abuse."
Okay, he had a tough time growing up, so have millions of others, but they somehow avoid a life of crime, and lead productive and law-abiding lives. The jury that falls for the "victim of circumstances" arguments is doing the legal system a huge disservice, by enabling future criminals to point to their decision now enshrined as "case-law".
The idea of personal responsibility is disappearing rapidly in this world, and a society based solely upon "Poor me, I'm a victim" guarantees that the concept of responsibility for one's own acts will fade entirely away, never to bother the "Victims of Society" again!
When everyone is somehow magically transformed into “victims” because they get yelled at, for say, burning their neighbors house down, then the abdication from a civilized society is complete.

Posted: Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Article comment by: Kathy In Arizona

This man does deserve the death penalty. He was in prison. He escaped and killed this couple. You want to put him back in prison, so he can escape again and kill again. He won't be anymore in control of himself the next time he escapes. Tell this to the elderly couple's family who was killed at the hands of this man. He knew what he was doing alright, he needed their car. I'm tired of lawyers trying to get their clients off with just a hand slap on the grounds that they have been abused in their youth. Well they are not in their youth anymore. Time to be responsible for their own actions. He was intelligent enough to figure out that he didn't want to leave a witness to his hijacking their car. What about the victims? What options did he give them? A couple worked all their life and had finally come to a point in their life where they could enjoy the benefits of their labor, had their life stolen from them as well as their car. How many lives does he get to take for being an abused kid. That excuse is outdated.

Posted: Monday, October 21, 2013
Article comment by: A Serious Thought

Smart enough to escape prison and kill but too dumb to die! Gotta love our justice system!

Posted: Monday, October 21, 2013
Article comment by: gun owner 000


What a crock. The defense attorney and the stupid quack of a doctor that decided McCloskey was "abused" ought to be locked up with him. That's one of the oldest fake-out pleas known to man....He was nuts, and didn't know what he was doing. Well, two people might disagree with them, if they were alive to say anything. To the prosecutors and the judge: Get on with it!

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