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Defense team takes constitutional argument in Stoddard County murder case to Missouri Supreme Court
BLOOMFIELD, Mo. -- After a constitutional argument regarding the phrase "the sanctity of all human life" was defeated at the local and appellate levels, Allen McCoy's attorneys have taken the case to the next level.
Attorney Robert Wolfrum from the Public Defender's Office Capital Division filed a writ with the Missouri Supreme Court on June 15 following the June 13 denial of a motion by the Missouri Court of Appeals.
No word has yet been given regarding a hearing date, but the case is set for pretrial motions in Stoddard County on Nov. 7.
McCoy, charged with first-degree murder following the June 2010 murder of Aubrey Lee Finch in Bernie, Mo., faces the death penalty if convicted.
The phrase in question comes from the original request to seek the death penalty filed by Stoddard County Prosecuting Attorney Russell Oliver. It says, "That the defendant killed Aubrey Lee Finch as a part of defendant's plan to kill more than one person and thereby exhibited a callous disregard for the sanctity of all human life." It is also said in two other places that the sanctity of life was violated due to Finch's physical disability and due his suffering being purposely caused.
Prosecutors argue that Finch's murder required "depravity of mind" and that it was "outrageously and wantonly vile, horrible and inhuman."
Defense attorneys filed a writ of prohibition with the appeals court following a May 18 court appearance where Judge Stephen Sharp declined to find the "aggravating circumstance" and jury instruction in question to be an unconstitutional establishment of religion.
Wolfrum recently filed the writ saying that the use of the phrase "sanctity of life" created an unconstitutional establishment of religion.
He said it may be impossible for a juror who does not subscribe to any religious theory to apply the language in a verdict because it requires them to make a religious statement.
No timetable is given for when the Missouri Supreme Court will act. At this point there are no scheduled hearings for the case on the Missouri high court's docket.
If the defense wins its argument, the case will be sent back to the court and the "sanctity of all human life" will be stricken from the documents. Should the defense lose its appeal, the next step would be an appeal to the United States Supreme Court.