Jurors asked to spare man from death penalty

Friday, November 9, 2001

BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- A man who could face the death penalty after his conviction on a capital murder charge maintained his innocence Thursday and asked a jury to spare his life.

James Baughman said he didn't take part in the 1999 murders of Joanne Kneece and her former husband, James Suggs.

The two were found dead in southern Missouri after authorities found blood splattered around the couple's Pea Ridge home.

Baughman was convicted of capital murder in Kneece's death and second-degree murder in Suggs' slaying.

After Baughman left the stand Thursday, Kneece's daughters also asked jurors to show mercy and not send him to death row. Kneece's brother, Roy Campbell, the lone rebuttal witness for the prosecution, said that the rest of the family would like to see Baughman die.

Jurors are expected to begin deliberations after today's closing arguments.

Mentally retarded

Defense attorney W.H. Taylor says Baughman should not be sentenced to death because he is mentally retarded. Circuit Judge David Clinger ruled previously that Taylor has not proven that Baughman is mentally impaired.

Baughman and Rose Ellen Cushman, both of Windsor, S.C., were charged in the murders. Cushman pleaded guilty in August to two counts of first-degree murder and was sentenced to 40 years after agreeing to testify for the state.

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