Prosecutor Tries to Stop Murder Victim’s Parents from Speaking against Death Penalty for Murderer
Prosecutors often use victims’ statements to urge harsher sentences for an accused criminal. But what happens if the victim, or victim’s survivors, hope to spare a harsh sentence?
Edward Montour is accused of killing Colorado corrections officer Eric Autobee while Montour was serving a life sentence for killing his own infant daughter, according to an article in The Atlantic. Montour originally pleaded guilty in Autobee’s murder and was sentenced to death by a judge. That sentence was overturned and a new trial ordered.
Autobee offered to plead guilty in exchange for a second sentence of life without parole. The prosecutor, Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, turned down the deal and sought the death penalty. Now, he’s trying to keep Bob and Lola Autobee, Eric’s parents, from urging the court to spare Montour’s life.
Brauchler would appear to be on shaky ground. According to Colorado law, "[t]he victim of any crime or a relative of the victim, if the victim has died, has the right to attend all sentencing proceedings resulting from a conviction of said crime under any laws of this state."
Brauchler argued that Colorado law "only guarantees the right of the victims to discuss the harm that resulted from the crime," but he cited no basis in statute for that argument.
The Autobees filed a motion asking that they be allowed to testify. In that motion it states: “Bob and his family have found healing in the forgiveness that they have extended to their son's killer. However, the prosecution strives to forever undo this healing by seeking to avenge one killing with another, over the family's pleas for mercy. For the Autobee family, a death sentence and the accompanying years of litigation, all supposedly done in their son's name, would rob them of peace. For, in the eyes of society, their son's name forever would be associated with cruelty and violence, rather than the human dignity and mercy he embodied in life.”
According to the Autobee’s lawyers, because the Autobee family's beliefs conflict with the prosecution's agenda, the prosecution has "relegated [them] to the status of second-class victims."
The trial judge is expected to rule on the motion any day.
To Learn More:
When Victims Speak Up in Court—in Defense of the Criminals (By Andrew Cohen, The Atlantic)
Autobee Response to Defendant’s Motion: The People of the State of Colorado v. Edward Montour, Jr. (District Court, Douglas County, Colorado
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