When Does the Death Penalty Apply to Missoula County Court Cases?
Missoula has seen two high profile murder cases in recent days and some citizens are wondering why the death penalty wasn’t invoked in either instance. Missoula County Attorney Kirsten Pabst was on the other end of the phone on Talk Back on Friday to provide information.
"There's a couple of reasons why these particular cases didn't qualify. Either that we show ambush or there was torture involved; They're really extremely egregious cases that would qualify, and arguably neither of the two cases pending in Missoula County qualified," Pabst said. "There's an even better reason than that. The United States Supreme Court basically just shot down our statutory scheme for the death penalty."
Pabst said Montana’s scheme was similar to a Florida case that was recently overturned by the Supreme Court because of their process for seeking and getting the death penalty.
"If the death penalty is even going to continue in Montana, the legislature is probably going to have to overhaul the process," Pabst said. "The jury has to decide. Our statutory scheme requires that a judge decide and that's been held unconstitutional. And I'm grossly oversimplifying it. At this point in Montana, I just don't think we are going to be able to do it until we get those laws straightened out."
Although she didn’t know specific numbers, Pabst said it’s been a while since a death penalty case was tried and convicted in Montana.