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The trier of fact has sole responsibility and absolute discretion to select the penalty for first degree murder. The court cannot substitute its judgment as to choice of punishment even when the court may doubt the appropriateness of the death penalty. Only the trial court has power to reduce the punishment originally selected by the trier of fact.
Defendant killed a woman (the victim) with whom he had had a long-term but troubled relationship. On many occasions, defendant threatened to kill the victim, threatened suicide, or threatened to or did injure others that he thought were unduly attentive to the victim. Defendant obtained a gun from codefendant and, tricking the victim into meeting him, shot and killed the victim. Defendant gave the police full details of the killing, which provided evidence at trial of both malice and premeditation. On appeal, defendant challenged the imposition of the death penalty.
Was the imposition of death penalty proper?
The court affirmed and held that defendant was fairly tried, properly convicted, and the selection of the death penalty was within the discretion of the trial court. On codefendant's appeal of his involuntary manslaughter conviction, the court affirmed and held that the jury was fully and fairly instructed on the elements of the offense, that the statements made by defendant were sufficient to show the required criminal negligence to hold codefendant guilty of involuntary manslaughter, and codefendant's own testimony corroborated defendant's testimony.