06/11/09 — No death penalty for two Mount Olive murders

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No death penalty for two Mount Olive murders

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on June 11, 2009 1:46 PM

The state will not seek the death penalty in two Mount Olive murder cases.

Michael Lee Shipman, 26, accused of the murder of Javonnie Langston, 33, of North Carolina Street, will not face the death penalty, court records show.

Neither will D'Morriais Q. Rivers Jr., 27, of Daly Boulevard, Mount Olive, accused in the murder of Julius Troublefield Jr., 38, of Center Street.

Court minutes did not detail whether another person accused in Troublefield's murder, Arsenio Martnez Rivers, who was 17 at the time of the murder, would also face capital punishment.

State statute governs how prosecutors and judges must act when a district attorney decides to seek the death penalty.

Some sort of "aggravating factor" must exist for a district attorney to seek capital punishment, Assistant District Attorney Terry Yeh said.

After the decision is made to seek capital punishment, a hearing is held. The hearing is called a "Rule 24" hearing after the general rule of practice that describes it.

"It's up to the district attorney to seek it (the death penalty), but in this hearing, the judge determines whether there is such evidence of circumstances for the state to continue," Mrs. Yeh said.

The assistant district attorney listed a few instances in which the death penalty would be sought.

"If the murder was committed by a person who is already in prison, or the murder was committed for monetary gain," Mrs. Yeh said. "Or one that is commonly used is if (the murder) is especially heinous or cruel, like a torture-type situation."

The record of a defendant who has committed some type of violent crime in the past may also be considered an aggravating factor, the assistant D.A. said.

Court officials must also consider "mitigating" factors, which would decrease the likelihood of possible capital punishment.

Some of those factors include:

* Not having a significant criminal history

* Being "under the influence of mental or emotional disturbance"

* If the accused is an accessory to the murder "and his participation was relatively minor"

* The age of the defendant

While specific rules govern whether a prosecutor can seek the death penalty, it is also in his or her discretion not to seek it, according to state law.

"The state may agree to accept a sentence of life imprisonment for a defendant at any point in the prosecution of a capital felony," state law dictates.