Huffpost Crime

John McCluskey Jury Deciding If Convicted Murderer Will Get Death Penalty

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Federal prosecutors and defense attorneys for convicted killer John McCluskey are scheduled to deliver closing arguments Monday in the first phase of his sentencing trial.

It will be up to jurors to decide whether the death penalty will be an option as they consider punishing McCluskey for the August 2010 slayings of an Oklahoma couple following his escape from an Arizona prison.

McCluskey, 48, was convicted by the same jury on Oct. 7 of murder, carjacking and other charges in the deaths of Gary and Linda Haas of Tecumseh, Okla.

In an effort to spare McCluskey from the possibility of execution, the defense called several neurological experts over the last week in support of their argument that McCluskey is incapable of controlling his impulses and making reasoned decisions due to brain abnormalities, emotional and physical abuse, and a long history of drug and alcohol abuse.

Prosecutors on Thursday called to the witness stand Johns Hopkins neurologist Barry Gordon, who told jurors he had interviewed McCluskey, conducted an exam and reviewed the convict's brain imaging scans and health history.

Gordon concluded that McCluskey has the capacity to control himself.

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 was quickly captured after a shootout with authorities in Colorado, while McCluskey, Welch and inmate Tracy Province headed to New Mexico.

Testimony showed the trio targeted the Haases at a rest stop near the New Mexico-Texas state line.

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 said McCluskey was the triggerman.

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