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Death penalty may be sought in officer's slaying

Posted Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

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Indiana's largest county has twice sought the death penalty for those charged in the slaying of a police officer in the last 12 years, and is considering doing so a third time.

Prosecutors said Tuesday they may seek the death penalty against Major Davis Jr., who is charged with killing Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Officer Perry Renn in a shootout July 5. The 25-year-old, who also was wounded, was pushed into court into a wheelchair and a judge entered an automatic not-guilty plea for him.

Marion County Deputy Prosecutor Denise Robinson said prosecutors had not yet decided whether to seek the death penalty against Davis, but they were evaluating it.

"This will not be a quick or easy process," she said, and the Renn's family's wishes will be taken into account.

Davis' public defender, David Shircliff, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Capital punishment has been an option before for Marion County prosecutors. In 2011, they sought the death penalty for Thomas Hardy in the killing of Indianapolis police Officer David Moore. After several months, Hardy pleaded guilty in return to a sentence of life without parole.

And in 2002, Benjamin Donnie Ritchie was sentenced to death in the slaying of Beech Grove Police Officer William Toney, and remains on death row.

While seeking the death penalty has declined overall due to the expense of trials, the testimony of expensive expert witnesses and the rise of DNA evidence that has made juries more skeptical, it is still commonly sought in cases where a police officer has died, said Richard Dieter, executive director of the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center, which advocates for the end of capital punishment.

"I will say that's a very common death penalty case, Dieter said. "It would be more likely than a lot of other kinds."

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