DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. - Relatives of a prison guard killed by an inmate over a decade ago are fighting for the chance to testify about their opposition to the death penalty.
Lawyers for Eric Autobee's family are scheduled to make their case to a judge in Castle Rock Thursday. District Attorney George Brauchler plans to seek the death penalty for Edward Montour if he's convicted.
Autobee's family argues they have a right to testify during the penalty phase about how executing Montour would affect them. Brauchler says the law bars victims from testifying about their opinion on the death penalty because it would interfere with the jury's job.
Autobee's father has protested against the death penalty outside the courthouse during jury selection. He says he forgives his son's killer.
-- Case history
Autobee was clubbed to death with a heavy ladle in the kitchen of the Limon Correctional Facility in 2002.
According to the Denver Post, the suspect, prisoner Edward Montour was already serving a life sentence for killing his infant daughter when he was accused of killing Autobee.
Montour, acting as his own attorney, pleaded guilty in 2003 to killing Autobee and a judge sentenced him to death.
However, in 2007, the Colorado Supreme Court struck down the death sentence, but not the plea, noting that the U.S. Supreme court had earlier ruled that a defendant has a constitutional right to have a jury, rather than a judge, decide the sentence in death penalty cases.
In April of last year, a Douglas County District Court judge allowed Montour to withdraw his original plea, sending the case back to trial.
The judge, Richard B. Caschette, noted that when the defendant pleaded guilty he was not represented by a defense attorney and he had a "documented history of mental illness."
Montour's new defense attorney, David Lane, said his client has offered to accept a sentence of life without any possibility of parole and "live in a super-max solitary confinement cell for the rest of his life."
However, 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler rejected the life-sentence deal and is instead pursuing the death penalty against Montour.
"When a man already serving a life sentence for murder kills a prison guard, a 'new' life sentence defies justice, common sense, and makes the taking of Eric Autobee’s life a 'freebie,'" Brauchler said.