Prosecutors announced last week that they will not seek the death penalty for a North Carolina man charged with killing his estranged wife and 11 year-old stepson in Germantown last fall.
The Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office confirmed the decision Oct. 10, a day after it was announced in a pre-trial hearing for Curtis Maurice Lopez before Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Mary Beth McCormick. State’s attorneys considered seeking the death penalty for Lopez in the months after police found the bodies of 51-year-old Jane McQuain and her son, William, over six days in October 2011, but ultimately defered the request to pursue a different strategy, said Ramon Korionoff, a spokesman for the state’s attorney’s office.
“The leadership in the state’s attorney’s office had determined that the pursuit of a death penalty in this case was not our best option tactically,” Korionoff said last week, declining to go into detail regarding tactics before the trial.
Prosecutors also reached out to McQuain’s family and weighed the temporary suspension of death penalty cases in Maryland based on a 2006 court of appeals case, Korionoff said.
“There are many factors that played into the decision and certainly one of those considerations was the moratorium,” he said. “... There are also emotional and private considerations regarding [the family’s] feelings on the matter.”
Montgomery County Assistant Public Defender Alan Drew, who is representing Lopez, declined to comment in detail regarding the prosecution’s announcement, but he did indicate he and fellow public defender Stefanie McArdle would be ready to defend Lopez vigorously at his trial, scheduled to begin in early January.
“We are glad that the death penalty is off the table,” he said. “We are preparing. We work on it daily and we’ll be ready to go to trial come January.”
Even apart from the moratorium, prosecutors must meet very strict guidelines to pursue the death penalty in Maryland — the General Assembly voted to add the requirement that capital cases be backed by DNA or direct video evidence in 2009, for instance — but prosecutors originally claimed Lopez, 45, was eligible because he was charged with multiple murders and one of his murders involved the abduction of a minor.
Prosecutors also claimed in previous hearings that they have DNA evidence directly linking Lopez to the crimes.
Also during the Oct. 9 hearing, McCormick denied motions on the part of the defense to bar evidence obtained in search warrants conducted by police following Lopez’ arrest in Charlotte, N.C., on Oct. 13. Specifically defense attorneys wanted McCormick to prevent prosecutors from introducing evidence found in a duffle bag and evidence found in the victim’s black 2011 Honda CR-V that prosecutors said Lopez stole after the killings, Korionoff said.
“Judge McCormick saw fit to deny both of those motions,” he said.
With the death penalty off the table, the highest penalty prosecutors can seek for Lopez is life in prison without the possibility of parole, Korionoff said.