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The Times' criminal justice team looks behind the scenes and behind the headlines.

December 28, 2009 at 11:49 AM

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Death penalty subject of Monfort court hearing

Posted by Jennifer Sullivan


Christopher Monfort

A hearing to determine when the King County Prosecutor's Office will announce whether it will seek the death penalty against suspected cop-killer Christopher Monfort is tentatively scheduled for tomorrow morning. It is unclear whether Monfort will attend the hearing.

Monfort is charged with killing Seattle police officer Timothy Brenton and wounding his partner Britt Sweeney on Halloween night.

Among the topics to be discussed during the hearing is whether the defense will ask King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg to delay his decision so Monfort's attorneys can have more time to prepare their argument in opposition of the death penalty. Julie Lawry, who is representing Monfort, has said that the defense plans to prepare a mitigation package for Satterberg that will outline reasons why Monfort should not be considered for the death penalty.

"Tomorrow's hearing will address several issues, including a possible announcement as to how much time the elected prosecutor will give the defense to prepare a mitigation package," said Ian Goodhew, deputy chief of staff for Satterberg. "The decision to give the defense additional time is solely within the discretion of the elected prosecutor."

Monfort has been charged with one count of aggravated murder, three counts of attempted first-degree murder and first-degree arson. The arson charge and one of the counts of attempted murder stem from the Oct. 22 firebombing of four Seattle police vehicles at a city maintenance yard.

Brenton, 39, and Sweeney, 33, were seated in their parked patrol car shortly after 10 p.m. on Oct. 31 when police say that Monfort drove up next to them and opened fire. Brenton was killed immediately, and Sweeney suffered minor injuries.

On the day of Monfort's arrest, three Seattle homicide detectives confronted him at his Tukwila apartment. Charging documents say he twice aimed a gun at officers before police shot him, court documents said. He is paralyzed from the waist down.

On Dec. 14, in a courtroom packed with police, families and the media, Monfort made his first appearance before a judge. He pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him.

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