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Prosecutors won't seek death penalty in retrial of highway shootings

By Emanuella Grinberg
Court TV

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (Court TV) -- Prosecutors will not seek the death penalty when they retry a man who pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to a string of sniper-style shootings in the greater Columbus area.

A Franklin County jury deadlocked Sunday on whether Charles McCoy Jr. knew the difference between right and wrong in 12 shootings, one fatal, that resulted in 24 charges of aggravated capital murder, attempted murder, felonious assault and vandalism.

At a status conference for counsel Tuesday morning in Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, Prosecuting Attorney Ron O'Brien agreed to dismiss the capital murder specification for charges stemming from the death of 62-year-old Gail Knisley.

O'Brien said Sunday he would retry the case but indicated he would take death off the table.

"We did not have the evidence from the psychiatrists until January of this year. Now that we have the benefit of that knowledge, we will factor that into the equation when we consider the death specifications," he said.

In accordance with Ohio law, the jury was not told that McCoy would be remanded to a mental health institute indefinitely had the panel accepted his insanity defense.

McCoy was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 1996, and witnesses for both sides during the monthlong trial acknowledged the severity of his mental illness, in which he claimed to hear voices and believed cameras were watching him.

McCoy's lawyer, Mark Collins, said he would still consider a plea but that one had not been discussed yet.

"We needed to get the matter of the death specification out of the way first," he told "We never denied his involvement in the shootings, but what he needs is treatment, not jail time."

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