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Juror: Panel split 11-1 favoring execution in CO's murder

Jurors who convicted Jessie Con-ui failed to reach agreement Monday on whether he should face death or a life term


Associated Press

SCRANTON, Pa. — A juror says she and 10 other members of a federal panel favored sentencing an inmate to death for the murder of a prison guard but one member dissented, saying her son was behind bars.

Jurors who convicted Jessie Con-ui last month of first-degree murder and murder of a correction officer failed to reach agreement Monday on whether he should face death or a life term, meaning he receives life without parole for the killing of guard Eric Williams.

This undated photo provided by State Correctional Institution-Dallas via The Citizens' Voice shows Jessie Con-Ui. (State Correctional Institution-Dallas/The Citizens' Voice via AP)
This undated photo provided by State Correctional Institution-Dallas via The Citizens' Voice shows Jessie Con-Ui. (State Correctional Institution-Dallas/The Citizens' Voice via AP)

Juror Amy Weidlich told The (Wilkes-Barre) Times Leader that the lone holdout "kept saying, 'I just feel bad for Jessie's mother.'" Pressed further, the holdout broke down and said her son was in prison, Weidlich said.

"She said we can't bring Eric back," Weidlich said. "There's enough bad things in the world the way it is, and I can't see taking a life."

The father of the slain guard, who was stabbed more than 200 times, said he was "shocked" and angered by the sentencing decision in the case of Con-ui, who is already serving 25 years to life for a 2002 gang initiation murder in Arizona.

"This man was already doing life. He committed a hideous murder on my son, and they gave him life again," Don Williams said. "You know what they did to him for doing what he did to my boy? They did nothing. They did absolutely nothing."

Prosecutors said Con-ui, angered about an earlier search of his cell, cut his hand during the killing and stopped the attack to walk over to a shower and clean the wound before wrapping it in his shirt and continuing the attack. They said he later paused to chew a piece of gum he took from the dying guard's pocket.

Officers who followed a bloody trail to Con-ui's cell asked him if he killed Williams, and they said he responded, "Yes, disrespect issue."

Defense attorneys cited an upbringing that included poverty and domestic violence and flaws in the prison system. They presented evidence about the effect his execution would have on his family, including his young sons. They argued that he has already been punished, since he has been held in isolation at a super-maximum security prison in Colorado

Con-ui, who's 40, apologized in court but said he couldn't explain his actions when he killed Williams, who was 34. He told Williams' family and others in the courtroom he's "always going to feel shame for taking an innocent man's life."

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