Jury still out on Marshall death penalty

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

Will he receive the death penalty or life in prison? Convicted arsonist and triple murderer Roger Marshall had to wait another day to learn the answer to that question.

Marshall was convicted in February of starting a fire at the motel that trapped and killed his ex-girlfriend, Lolaetta Corbin Hicks, her new boyfriend, John Meyer and another man who lived at the motel, James Reed.

The jury in the Marshall case began deliberations just after 11:30 a.m. Thursday.

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Jurors deliberated until just after 5 p.m. and then retired to sequestration. Deliberations began again this morning.

One more person was dismissed from jury service Thursday. Debbie Hasenauer was let go at the request of defense attorneys William Eachus and Charles Knight.

After the guilty verdict was reached but before the jury met again to begin the sentencing portion of the trial, Hasenauer called court officials and informed them that an acquaintance, Chris Destocki, had told her about hearing another juror, Robert Lowe, bragging about wanting to give Marshall the death penalty.

“It’s not because of anything you’ve done. You did the right thing,” Walton told her, “but because you have information the other jurors did not have.”

Lowe was dismissed from jury service Wednesday.

In his closing argument, Knight pleaded with the jury to spare Marshall’s life, given his emotional immaturity and mental instability stemming from a painful childhood.

Knight said Marshall had lived a decent life, held down a job and served in the military prior to the 2004 murders and that these factors should be taken into account.

“Do you recommend we put someone to death because of this one incident and disregard his life, his 58 years, before this?” Knight asked.

But Lawrence County Prosecutor J.B. Collier, Jr. reminded the jurors it was Roger Marshall’s decision to kill three people by starting a fire at the Lyle Motel in August 2004.

That act, perpetrated in the early morning hours when all three victims were asleep, made their deaths an aggravated circumstance. It was that aggravating circumstance, Collier said, for which Roger Marshall should pay with his life.

“I submit to you that the state has proven beyond reasonable doubt the killing of three innocent people far outweighs the mitigating efforts (of the defense),” he said.

Throughout the closing statements, Marshall sat quietly, displaying none of the temper that got him ejected from the courtroom Wednesday.