But prosecutor says death sentence is being pursued because of the crime
In defending himself from allegations that he is discriminating against Daphne Wright by seeking the death penalty, prosecutor Dave Nelson this morning said death is still an option because the defense never sought a plea agreement.
Defense attorney Jeff Larson offered statistics that in 18 years as Minnehaha County Stateâ€™s Attorney, Nelson has filed an intent to seek the death penalty against five of the 21 defendants charged with first-degree murder.
In each case, the victim was a white woman.
â€œWhen a minority victim has been involved, the stateâ€™s attorneyâ€™s office has never filed a death penalty notice,â€ Larson said.
Nelson said the facts of the case â€” specifically that Wright used a chain saw to dismember Darlene VanderGiesen â€” are why he is pursuing death.
He also said Wright is the first of those five defendants to take the case to trial.
â€œIn every other case where the state indicated an intention to seek the death penalty, the defense approached the state with an offer to plead guilty and accept responsibility, and as Minnehaha County Stateâ€™s Attorney, that is immensely important to me in terms of whether the death penalty is appropriate,â€ Nelson said.
The argument concerned the defenseâ€™s motion to preclude the death penalty based on discrimination due to race, sexual orientation and/or disability. Wright, 43, is black, homosexual and deaf.
Judge Brad Zell denied the motion, saying he sees no pattern in the prosecutorâ€™s decisions.
Wright is the fourth black defendant accused of first-degree murder in the county since Nelson took office. The prosecutor did not seek the death penalty in the other three cases.
(( Source:Â Argus Leader ))