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October 31, 2013

Witness: Convicted killer liked to read New Yorker

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A neurologist testified Thursday that convicted killer John McCluskey used to read The New Yorker and likes to watch the news. He knows how to budget the money he gets each month in prison. His memory is good, and he knows how to follow instructions.

Johns Hopkins neurologist Barry Gordon took the witness stand in the penalty phase of the murder case, saying he examined McCluskey two weeks ago for prosecutors, looking for things that could spark his violent tendencies.

McCluskey was convicted on Oct. 7 of capital murder in the August 2010 carjack killings of Linda and Gary Haas following his escape from an Arizona prison.

Defense attorneys have been trying to spare McCluskey from the death penalty. arguing that he is incapable of controlling his impulses or making reasoned decisions due to brain abnormalities, emotional and physical abuse and a long history of drug and alcohol abuse.

Prosecutors called Gordon to rebut such testimony from defense witnesses.

Jurors will first weigh whether McCluskey is eligible for the death penalty or a life sentence. They are expected to begin those deliberations after closing arguments Thursday.

McCluskey was serving 15 years for attempted second-degree murder, aggravated assault and discharge of a firearm when he and two other prisoners escaped from a medium-security prison near Kingman, Ariz., in July 2010 with the help of his cousin and fiancee, Casslyn Welch.

One inmate was quickly captured after a shootout with authorities in Colorado, while McCluskey, Welch and inmate Tracy Province headed to New Mexico.

Testimony showed the trio targeted the Haases at a rest stop near the New Mexico-Texas state line.

Province and Welch pleaded guilty last year to charges of carjacking resulting in death, conspiracy, the use of a firearm during a violent crime and other charges. They both said McCluskey was the triggerman.

 

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