We wrote a blog item earlier today about the parallels of the Casey Anthony and Deborah Milke child-murder cases, and mentioned the name of little Chris Milke's actual killer, Vietnam vet James Lynn Styers.
Didn't take but a few minutes before someone informed us about an Arizona Supreme Court opinion issued last week affirming Styers' death sentence, more than two decades and counting after the 4-year-old's December 1989 desert execution.
As are just about all death penalty appeals, this one has a tortured legal history that we mostly will pass on here.
Suffice to say that the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals shipped the case back to Arizona last year after noting that our Supreme Court wrongly had failed to consider Styers' post-traumatic stress syndrome (from his war service) as a possible mitigating circumstance that could have called for leniency.
State prosecutors subsequently asked the high court to review the facts of the case with an eye toward considering Styers' PTSD as a possible mitigating factor.
The Arizona Supreme Court did just that, but didn't bite on the PTSD thing.
Written by Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch, the 4-1 majority opinion concludes that "Styers failed to present any evidence that his PTSD affected his conduct at the time of the crime," and that his actions were "planned and deliberate, not impulsive."
Berch points out that "Styers purchased guns, and he and Roger Scott then took Christopher into the desert and shot him three times in the head.
"Styers then concocted and participated in an elaborate ruse to mislead the police, claiming that Christopher had been abducted at the [Metrocenter] mall while Styers was in a restroom stall. He also participated in a lengthy `search' for Christopher after the search."
Bottom line--"We attribute little mitigating weight to Styers' PTSD [and] find no reason to alter the conclusion reached in Styers' direct appeal."
So, Styers will stay put on death row in Florence, as attorneys take the inevitable next step in the never-ending legal "process."
Why don't they just forget this death penalty stuff, sentence killers such as Styers and his co-defendants to life imprisonment without any chance of parole, and call it a day?
Would save a lot of time, effort and money, no?
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