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Hearing Set on Death Penalty in Montana Murder Case

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Photo courtesy of Flickr/wim hoppenbrouwers

A judge has scheduled a November hearing to decide whether a Colorado man charged with killing an eastern Montana teacher should be declared ineligible for the death penalty.

Richland County Judge Richard Simonton on Friday set a Nov. 4 hearing on the matter in Sidney.

Defense attorneys for 24-year-old Michael Keith Spell say he suffers from mental disabilities that preclude a death sentence under a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Prosecutors say the Parachute, Colo. man killed high school teacher Sherry Arnold of Sidney in January 2012. Her body was found near Williston, N.D.

Spell’s co-defendant, Lester Van Waters Jr., pleaded guilty last month under a deal that calls for him to receive a 100-year prison sentence with 20 years suspended. Waters also agreed to help in the case against Spell.

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