Colorado - Sir Mario doubles death row

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Colorado - Sir Mario doubles death row

Post  Jennie on Tue Jun 17, 2008 11:37 pm


Sir Mario doubles death row

"We did it, Vivian." Those were the 1st words out of Christine Wolfe's mouth Monday after a jury sentenced her daughter's killer to die by lethal injection.

The 6-man, 6-woman jury deliberated 6 hours in Arapahoe District Court on Monday before handing down a unanimous verdict that 23-year-old Sir Mario Owens should die for the 2005 ambush murders of Vivian Wolfe and her fiance, Javad Marshall-Fields, both 22.

Owens will become the second inmate on Colorado's death row, joining Nathan Dunlap, who was sentenced to death in 1996 for murdering four people at an Aurora Chuck E Cheese restaurant in 1994. Dunlap, now 34, currently is appealing the penalty in U.S. District Court.

Monica Owens, mother of Sir Mario Owens, said the verdict will be appealed.

Christine Wolfe and Rhonda Marshall-Fields, mother of Javad Marshall-Fields, left a meeting with jurors arm-in-arm following the reading of the verdicts.

Visit to grave site

"We told them we knew it was a long, difficult trial," said Rhonda Marshall-Fields about the meeting with the jurors. "But it will never be over for us."

Christine Wolfe, mother of Vivian Wolfe, said her reaction to the verdict was to whisper the words "We did it, Vivian" to her daughter.

"Javad and Vivian were our angels," Rhonda Marshall-Fields said.

Both mothers praised the work of prosecutors and said the verdicts restored their faith in the criminal-justice system.

Wolfe said she would stop at her daughter's grave in Mount Olivet Cemetery on her way home Monday evening to repeat her message to her daughter. Vivian Wolfe is buried beside Javad Marshall-Fields. The graves are within walking distance of Christine Wolfe's home.

Owens was found guilty in May on 2 counts of 1st-degree murder in connection with the deaths of Marshall-Fields and Wolfe, who had graduated from Colorado State University only weeks before they were killed.

Prosecutors said the deaths were particularly heinous because they were carried out only days before Marshall-Fields was to testify against Owens in connection with the death of his friend, Gregory Vann, at an Aurora park.

Owens is serving a life-without-parole sentence in connection with the death of Vann. Members of Vann's family attended the reading of the verdicts.

"This is not something we celebrate or take great joy in," said Arapahoe County Assistant District Attorney John Hower, who delivered the final arguments in the penalty phase of the trial on Friday. "But it is a just verdict."

'Community decision'

Hower said the verdict brought satisfaction to the families of the victims and to the Arapahoe County District Attorney's office.

Arapahoe County District Attorney Carol Chambers, who has attended the trial on-and-off and was present for Monday's decision, thanked the Aurora Police Department for its "phenomenal job" in investigating the murders and saluted her office's "team effort" in prosecuting the case.

Chambers said questionnaires completed in April by prospective jurors for the trial indicated 90 to 95 percent of them were in favor of the death penalty and said the verdict represented "a community decision."

Heavy silence hung in the courtroom as Judge Gerald Rafferty read the jury's verdict forms.

Owens, dressed in red jail fatigues, showed no emotion when the verdict was read. Throughout the two-month trial, Owens wore stylish street clothes brought to him by his parents.

Formal sentencing is set for Sept. 2.

Owens' mother and father, Aurora residents Monica and Derrick Owens, left the courtroom quickly after the verdicts were read.

Another trial looms

The case is being closely watched by lawyers who will defend Robert Ray later this summer in connection with the murders of Marshall-Fields and Wolfe. The Arapahoe County District Attorney is seeking the death penalty against Ray in that case.

Denver defense lawyer Mike Root, who will head up Ray's defense team, attended final arguments on Friday and was in the courtroom for Monday's verdict. Root declined to comment.

Denver lawyer David Lane, a prominent advocate of abolishing the death penalty, said in an e-mail response that he has followed the Owens trial closely. He praised Owens' defense team but said that the death penalty does not reflect the will of the American people.

"Fully one-third of all Americans favor the abolition of the death penalty," Lane said. "The public is not nearly as in love with the death penalty as are politicians and prosecutors."

Owens timeline

* July 4, 2004: Gregory Vann, 20, is shot dead after a July 4 fireworks celebration at Lowry Park in Aurora. Vann's brother, Elvin Bell, and friend Javad Marshall- Fields chase the gunman to a vehicle and are wounded as they attempt to keep him from leaving. Police focus on Robert Ray and Sir Mario Owens as suspects.

* June 20, 2005: Marshall-Fields and his fiancee, Vivian Wolfe, are shot and killed in Aurora, 1 week before Marshall-Fields was scheduled to testify in Ray's murder trial.

* Nov. 6, 2005: Owens is arrested in Shreveport, La., on a 1st- degree murder charge in Vann's death.

* Dec. 29, 2005: After fighting extradition, Owens makes his 1st appearance in Arapahoe County Court on the Vann murder charge.

* March 9, 2006: Owens and Ray are charged with 1st-degree murder in the deaths of Marshall- Fields and Wolfe. DNA gathered at the scene of the murders matches that of Owens.

* Nov. 4, 2006: An Arapahoe County jury finds Robert Ray guilty of attempted 1st-degree murder and accessory to murder in the death of Vann. He is sentenced to 108 years.

* Jan. 30, 2007: Owens is convicted of 1st-degree murder in the death of Vann and sentenced to life in prison. Owens also is convicted on 2 counts of attempted 2nd-degree murder for shooting Marshall-Fields and Bell when they tried to stop him from fleeing the scene of the July 4, 2004, violence.

* May 14, 2008: An Arapahoe County jury finds Owens guilty of 7 counts in the Marshall- Fields and Wolfe case.

* June 16, 2008: The jury decides to sentence Owen to death for the murders of Marshall-Fields and Wolfe.

* Aug. 2008: Ray is scheduled to go on trial in the murders of Marshall- Fields and Wolfe.

Life on death row

* There is no area at the Canon City prison dedicated to inmates facing the death penalty. They are housed alongside other prisoners. An inmate under a death sentence is confined to an individual cell 23 hours a day. An inmate showers and exercises in the remaining hour.

* Breakfast is served from 5:30-6 a.m.; lunch from 11 to 11:30 a.m.; dinner from 4:30-5 p.m.

* An inmate is allowed 21/2 hours of visitation weekly in a setting that does not allow physical contact. He can furnish his cell with a TV, radio, two books, newspapers and magazines.

* An inmate is allowed to check out materials from the prison library and the law library. An inmate who fulfills requirements for education and other programs can watch movies shown by prison authorities.


3 jurors agreed to talk about the Sir Mario Owens death penalty deliberations on the condition of anonymity. The 3 were the 57-year-old jury foreman, a 58-year-old male government employee and a 41-year-old salesman.


"It's a very tragic, sad event for everyone concerned. It was very emotional - not want to say a tough decision - but it was very hard." Foreman

"It didn't come easily to sentence someone to death. It's something that you don't do lightly. Government employee


"We all looked at everything. We followed the instructions of the court. There wasn't one thing that overshadowed anything else. " Salesman

"It was very civil. It didn't go without a lot of thought and planning and compassion." Goverment employee


"Everyone had their chance to come to grips (with the decision) to put a man to death." Government employee

"Every person's desire to talk about it was addressed - they must be comfortable with this decision for the rest of their lives." Salesman


"It's just a lot to deal with. I have to find peace with our decision. I know it's not over. I will feel this for many days to come." Salesman.

(source: Rocky Mountain News)

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