Prosecutors have not yet decided whether to seek the death penalty against the Valley’s two Serial Shooter suspects.
Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas said Wednesday he will allow the process to take its normal course, and prosecutors have until Oct. 20 to declare their intent. That date reflects the standard 60 days from arraignment that prosecutors are allowed to decide to pursue capital punishment.
Dale S. Hausner, 33, and Samuel J. Dieteman, 30, both of Mesa, are charged with two counts of first-degree murder and several counts of attempted first-degree murder and drive-by shootings in the serial shootings that had plagued the Valley since May 2005.
Thomas said he will make the final decision, but he also said he rarely disregards the recommendations of the office’s Capital Review Committee.
In each case, a 10-member committee of senior attorneys within the office convenes to review and discuss case details. The prosecuting attorney sits on the committee.
A defendant’s pleas are taken into account, as well as the age and criminal history of the defendant and the manner in which the crime was committed.
Cassia Spohn, who teaches at Arizona State University’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, said homicides involving multiple victims are a definite example of an “aggravating circumstance” that may lead a prosecutor to seek the death penalty. She noted that in addition to reviewing a defendant’s criminal history, prosecutors might try to predict what a jury will do.
“If there is mitigating evidence that would make a death sentence unlikely, it may not make sense to file capital charges,” Spohn said.
Death penalty checklist
The Capital Review Committee considers several factors. The more “yes” answers apply to the following questions, the more likely prosecutors will seek the death penalty.
1. Has the defendant been charged previously for another crime punishable by death or life imprisonment?
2. Has the defendant been convicted previously of other serious crimes?
3. Did the defendant endanger the life of someone besides the victim as he or she committed the crime?
4. Did the defendant pay someone else to commit a crime?
5. Was the defendant being paid to commit the crime?
6. Was the crime committed in an especially cruel or depraved manner?
7. Was the defendant in custody or probation when he or she committed the crime?
8. Has the defendant been convicted of one or more homicides?
9. Was the defendant an adult at the time of the crime? Was the victim under 15 or over 70?
10. Was the victim an on-duty peace officer?