TACOMA, Wash. - Prosecutors got more time Wednesday to decide whether to seek the death penalty against the man accused of killing Pierce County sheriff’s deputy Daniel McCartney.
The extension, which was requested by Frank Pawul’s defense attorneys and granted by Superior Court Judge Stephanie Arend, wasn’t opposed by the state. And it wasn’t unexpected.
It gives prosecutors until June 6 to make their decision.
“It is normal practice for most prosecutors to provide more than the thirty days allowed by statute and the period of time is often extended well past the statutorily allowed time to allow defense counsel to make a cogent argument why death should not be sought,” defense attorney Mary Kay High wrote the court. “... By asking for additional time for the mitigation package it should benefit both the defendant to provide salient information for the state’s consideration and the state in making its weighty decision.”
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High wrote that, among other things, Pawul’s attorneys need time for interviews and to get records that might help them argue against seeking capital punishment in the case.
State law initially gave prosecutors 30 days from Pawul’s Feb. 6 arraignment on a charge of aggravated first-degree murder to decide.
Investigators said Pawul and 35-year-old Henry Carden tried to rob the residents at gunpoint.
One of the victims called 911, according to charging papers. As they fled, the robbers exchanged gunfire with deputy McCartney moments after he arrived.
Back-up deputies arrived and found McCartney with a gunshot wound to his neck. He died later at a hospital.
They also found Carden dead at the scene with a self-inflicted bullet wound to his head.
Pawul was later arrested and charged, as were two women accused of dropping the men off at the scene: 52-year-old Brenda Troyer and 29-year-old Samantha Dawn Jones.
All three pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping, and Pawul also has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery and unlawful gun possession.
Prosecutors upped his charges to aggravated first-degree murder earlier this month after they got new ballistics evidence.
The Sheriff’s Department said test results show the bullet that killed McCartney was fired by a gun found about 175 feet from the deputy, along a path of items they say can be linked to Pawul.
If convicted of the aggravated murder charge, Pawul must be sentenced to life in prison without parole or to death.
Washington state has not executed prisoners sentenced to death in recent years.
Governor Jay Inslee, a Democrat, put a moratorium on capital punishment in 2014, which means it can’t be carried out while he’s in office.
There’s also a bill working its way through the state legislature that would get rid of the death penalty altogether and replace it with life without parole.
McCartney, who was 34, is survived by a wife and three young sons.