Kentucky High Court Considers Legality Of Death Row Inmate's Request To Hasten Execution

Thursday, April 12th 2007, 6:07 pm
By: News On 6

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) _ The state Supreme Court on Thursday considered whether a death row inmate convicted in the brutal slayings of two children can hasten his own execution.

The court is reviewing the case of Marco Allen Chapman, who pleaded guilty in 2004 to the killings, waived his right to a jury trial, and persuaded a judge to sentenced him to death.

Prosecutors tried to convince the court that the sentence was legal, while Chapman's court-appointed defense attorneys contend he is trying to use the legal system to commit ``suicide by court.''

Chapman pleaded guilty in December 2004 to killing 7-year-old Chelbi Sharon and 6-year-old Cody Sharon in their northern Kentucky home. He also admitted stabbing 10-year-old Courtney Sharon, who survived, then raping and trying to kill their mother, Carolyn Marksberry, during the 2002 assault.

Police said Chapman attacked the family because he was upset with Marksberry for telling Chapman's girlfriend to end a relationship with him.

The judge said at the time he could not find a legal reason to deny Chapman's request.

The Associated Press does not name victims of sexual assault in most cases, but Marksberry has discussed her ordeal in local and national television broadcasts.

On Thursday, Chapman's attorneys argued against Chapman's death wish, saying, among other things, the judge should have sought evidence that might have mitigated Chapman's punishment.

``There is no case, whether it's this case or any other horrible case you can imagine, that is so awful that you don't have to take that second step,'' said Donna L. Boyce, one of Chapman's attorneys. ``There is no mandatory death sentence.''

Defense attorneys offer mitigating evidence to cast the accused in a more positive light. Chief Justice Joseph Lambert noted Chapman waived his right to present that evidence.

``If you have a trial judge, who, by virtue of being denied mitigation evidence ... was he denied the very evidence that he needed to make that ultimate decision?'' Lambert asked.

David Smith, an assistant attorney general, told justices that Chapman was found to be mentally competent after several psychiatric evaluations.

``There's nothing at all inappropriate about a defendant saying, 'Judge I want this particular sentence,' and a judge going along with it,'' Smith said.

The court is reviewing the case, as it does with all death penalty convictions. Marksberry attended the Thursday hearing, but declined to comment afterward.

Volunteering for a death sentence is not new.

Since 1977, when Gary Mark Gilmore waived his appeals and was killed by firing squad in Utah, 124 inmates in 26 of the 38 states with a death penalty law have waived appeals and asked to die, according to the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C.