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Published June 19, 2013, 12:59 PM

Montana prosecutor opposes attempt to rule out death

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — An eastern Montana prosecutor said Wednesday that he will oppose attempts to declare one of the suspects in the killing of a Sidney teacher ineligible for the death penalty.

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — An eastern Montana prosecutor said Wednesday that he will oppose attempts to declare one of the suspects in the killing of a Sidney teacher ineligible for the death penalty.

Richland County Attorney Mike Weber also said he will oppose a request by defense attorneys to relocate the January trial of defendant Michal Keith Spell.

Spell and co-defendant Lester Van Waters Jr., both of Colorado, are charged in the 2012 killing of Sherry Arnold.

Authorities allege the pair abducted Arnold from a Sidney street during her morning run, killed her and buried her body in a North Dakota field.

Members of Spell's defense team revealed this week that they filed a sealed motion asking Judge Richard Simonton to rule out a potential death sentence because their client is mentally disabled.

A 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling banned executions of the mentally disabled, saying it violated the Constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

In a separate motion, Spell's attorneys have asked for his Jan. 6 trial to be moved to Bozeman. They contend that jurors in Richland County would be biased because of widespread news coverage of Spell's alleged confessions in the case, and because Arnold was so well known in the community.

Weber declined to elaborate on the reasons for his opposition to the motions but indicated they would be detailed in future court filings.

Waters trial is set to begin Nov. 4. His attorneys have not requested a change of venue, and Weber said they have not challenged his eligibility for the death penalty if convicted.

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