Springfield, MO – A Missouri jury left the fate of a child murderer in the hands of the judge last week, after they were unable to come to a unanimous decision regarding imposition of the death penalty.
The Nov. 6 deadlock created a rare situation for Circuit Judge Thomas Mountjoy, who now must decide whether to impose a life sentence or a death sentence for Craig Wood.
In November, Wood was found guilty of first-degree murder in the 2014 killing of 10-year-old Hailey Owens.
Wood, a former school employee and football coach, pulled Owens into his vehicle in broad daylight as she was walking along a street, the Kansas City Star said.
Witnesses pursued Wood, but he was able to escape with the kidnapped girl.
Wood raped Owens, then shot her. Investigators later found the ten year old's body in a plastic tub in Wood’s basement, prosecutors said during his trial.
The jury foreman told the Springfield News-Leader that 10 jurors voted for death, and two jurors voted for life in Wood’s case.
In most states, defendants are automatically sentenced to life in prison when a jury can’t reach a unanimous sentencing decision, consistent with federal procedure.
Missouri and Indiana are the only two states where a judge can impose a death sentence after a jury deadlocks, the Springfield News-Leader said.
Robert Dunham, executive director of the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center, said a U.S. Supreme Court decision from 2016 could be relevant if Wood is sentenced to death, according to the Springfield News-Leader.
Dunham noted that in Hurst vs. Florida, the Supreme Court ruled, "the Sixth Amendment requires a jury, not a judge, to find each fact necessary to impose a sentence of death."
The constitutionality of the process will "unquestionably" be challenged by Wood's attorneys under appeal in the event Judge Mountjoy sentences Wood to death, Dunham told the Springfield News-Leader.
Judge Mountjoy is scheduled rule on Wood’s sentence on Jan 11.