Arizona jury to consider death penalty in serial shooter case

PHOENIX – Jurors who convicted a former janitor of murdering six people and attacking 19 others will begin work today to decide whether he should be put to death for the dozens of random, nighttime shootings that terrorized the city in 2005 and 2006. Jurors in the murder trial of Dale Shawn Hausner, who was found guilty in 80 of 86 charges relating to the city’s Serial Shooter attacks, are expected over the coming weeks to consider evidence, witness testimony and victim impact statements in the case’s death penalty phase. Hausner would face life in prison if he is not condemned. Samuel Dieteman, a former roommate who testified against Hausner, is also awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to two of the Serial Shooter killings. He, too, could face the death penalty. Prosecutors said Hausner preyed on pedestrians, bicyclists, dogs and horses in attacks that ended in August 2006 with the arrests of Hausner and Dieteman at their Mesa apartment. A total of eight people were killed in the random shootings. Since 2002, Arizona juries have had the responsibility of determining whether a death sentence is warranted after first-degree murder convictions in cases where prosecutors seek capital punishment. In the penalty phase, prosecutors must present evidence about aggravating factors and mitigating circumstances. A court document indicated prosecutors in Hausner’s case plan to try to convince jurors that at least one aggravating factor applies, the requirement for a jury to condemn a defendant. Of the 14 aggravating factors under state law, the prosecution will try to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that: more than one murder occurred; that Hausner has committed prior serious offenses; that he carried out the killings ‘in an especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner’ and ‘acted in a cold, calculated manner without pretense of moral or legal justification.’ A defendant convicted of committing multiple murders is more likely to get the death penalty, said Kent Cattani, chief counsel over capital litigation and criminal appeals for the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, which is not involved in the Hausner case. ‘Someone who commits more than one murder is more of a danger to society than someone who has committed only one murder,’ Cattani said. Mike Scerbo, a spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, said prosecutors could not comment because of the ongoing case. Timothy Agan, one of Hausner’s attorneys, said he wouldn’t predict whether the jury would find aggravating factors but that the defense was ‘preparing for that possibility.’ He said the defense would take weeks to present mitigating circumstances, which can include a defendant’s inability to understand the wrongfulness of his actions or whether he was forced or threatened into committing a crime. Tony Long, a survivor who was shot as he stood at a bus stop in 2006, said he had forgiven Hausner and didn’t have an opinion about Hausner’s possible sentence. ‘I just try to let it go,’ he said. ‘I wouldn’t want to be the one to tell someone, ‘We’re going to put you to death.”