Over in Arizona, there is a big, bad murder case moving through the system.
Seems that a man named Jonathan Edward Vandergriff, along with Staci Lynn Barbosa, his co-defendant, were facing murder charges as well as child abuse by domestic violence, sexual assault of a minor under the age of 15, and sexual conduct with a minor under the age of 15.
The woman wasn’t facing a death penalty; the prosecution was seeking life in prison without parole (at least for the first 35 years) for her. Vandergriff, however, they wanted to kill.
The underlying crime was horrible.
According to media reports, last June 15th, Ms. Barbosa took her infant son to a local hospital, where she was arrested. Vandergriff turned himself in later that afternoon.
Seems doctors found that her baby, Matthew, was not only bruised, dehydrated, and malnourished (signs of neglect), but he was also suffering from broken ribs and a broken leg (femur). His eyes were swollen, too, and he had signs not only of being sexually abused but he had symptoms of shaken baby syndrome.
Matthew was moved to another facility as soon as possible, but it was too late. The baby died that next day.
Given these facts, it’s no surprise that the state attorney sought the death penalty here – against at least one of the defendants. However, here’s another surprise for you: he’s just taken it off the table.
State Attorney Changes His Mind – It’s Not a Capital Case After All
That’s right: the Arizona trial will not include the death penalty. The death-qualified attorney appointed to the case (at a rate of $100/hour and $900/month for travel expenses) has been given his hat.
Seems that last month, the prosecutor — Deputy Mohave County Attorney Greg McPhillips — announced that the State of Arizona would not seek the death penalty for Vandergriff, arguing instead for life in prison with or without the chance of parole after 35 years — the same punishment that they are asking from Matthew’s mother (and Vandergriff’s co-defendant).
This led to the County Manager terminating the contract that funded the defense attorney, Tucson attorney Creighton Cornell. The County is cutting its costs on the case as soon as it can – having paid defense costs of around $50,000 with an estimated cost of $200,000 for trial of a death case (it goes up if there are post-conviction costs).
Interesting aside: brother Cornell had filed not only a motion to withdraw the public defender’s office from representing Vandergriff, he had also filed a motion to allege prosecution misconduct — and both these motions had yet to be heard.