A man awaiting sentencing for killing a Missouri police officer is challenging the constitutionality of a state law that allows judges to hand down the death sentence.
A jury in June convicted 45-year-old Ian McCarthy of first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Clinton Police Officer Gary Lee Michael Jr. during a 2017 traffic stop. After days of deliberation, the jury informed the judge that it couldn’t decide between the state’s only two sentences for first-degree murder: life in prison without parole, or death.
Missouri and Indiana are the only active death penalty states that allow judges to sentence people to die. Montana also allows judges to hand down death sentences, but it hasn’t executed anyone since 2006.
McCarthy’s attorneys filed a motion last week asking a Jackson County judge to declare the state law unconstitutional and to sentence McCarthy to life in prison. Judge Marco Roldan will consider the motion at the sentencing hearing on Friday.
In another case, the Missouri Supreme Court in 2019 upheld the sentence for Craig Wood, who was sentenced to death by a judge for kidnapping, raping and killing a 10-year-old girl in 2014. Wood remains on death row and no execution date has been set.
On Aug. 6, 2017, McCarthy used a high-powered rifle to fatally shoot Michael, 37, during a traffic stop in Clinton, about 75 miles (121 kilometers) southeast of Kansas City. McCarthy was captured two days later in a rural area of Henry County.
The court filing on behalf of McCarthy states that since the jury couldn’t reach unanimous agreement on a sentence, McCarthy should have been given life without parole.