Prosecutor: Jury To Decide On Death Penalty In Baum Case
PROVO, Utah – Prosecutors on Wednesday announced a jury will decided the fate of a man accused of murdering two teenagers and dumping their bodies down a mine shaft near Eureka.
Jerrod William Baum, 41, is accused of murdering teenagers Breezy Otteson and Riley Powell in 2018.
Utah County Attorney David Leavitt made the announcement during a press conference, where he argued that prosecutors have too much control in the justice system. For the first several minutes of the press conference, Leavitt shared his philosophical beliefs on the current state of the justice system, arguing to many criminal cases are resolved by plea bargains, defeating the founders belief of a jury system.
BREAKING: Utah County Attorney David Leavitt says he will seek the death penalty against Jerrod Baum in the murders of teens Riley Powell and Breezy Otteson in 2017. Their bodies were found in an old mine shaft near Eureka four months later. Watch @KSL5TV at noon. pic.twitter.com/xwFtKmEmbm
— Sam Penrod (@KSLsampenrod) July 31, 2019
That’s when Leavitt said Baum will go to trial, despite the fact there is always a risk of an acquittal.
“It is the role of the jury to decide the guilt or innocence of this man,” he said. “This is not a ploy on my part to say we are going to allow the death penalty. We are giving this defendant one offer, and that is the offer of a fair trial.”
The bodies of Otteson and Powell were discovered in an abandoned mine in Juab County in March 2018. Baum was arrested shortly afterward.
According to arresting documents, Baum’s girlfriend, Morgan Henderson, told authorities that Baum had tied the teens up, drove them to a mine, killed them with a knife and then dumped their bodies. His motive was jealousy, the report states, after he told Henderson not to allow any men into her home.
The brutal nature of the crime Leavitt said, demands not only justice, but safety to the public, which is why he is putting the death penalty on the table.
Utah County Attorney: Jury Will Decide On Death Penalty
Baum pleaded not guilty in June.
“The police, the prosecution team, and the families — they will be very much a part of this whole decision on whether to seek the death penalty,” Leavitt said at the time. “In the end, the decision whether to (seek the) death penalty rests with me, but everyone will be included in that process.”
Powell’s and Ottenson’s families attended the news conference, and say they are on board with the death penalty, even though it will mean an emotional trial and perhaps years of appeals.
This article will be updated.
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