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State Still Weighing Death Penalty in Cheyenne Boy’s Death

Laramie County Sheriff's Office
Laramie County Sheriff’s Office

Laramie County District Attorney Jeremiah Sandburg says the state “will probably take all the way up to the end of the month” to decide whether to seek the death penalty against John Barrett.

The 24-year-old is accused of sexually abusing and killing his girlfriend’s 2-year-old son in May. He pleaded not guilty to two counts of first-degree murder in commission of a felony, first-degree sexual abuse of a minor, child abuse and aggravated child abuse last week.

Barrett’s attorney, Diane Lozano, has repeatedly asked the court to dismiss Count II — which alleges Barrett did, in the perpetration of sexual abuse, kill the child — arguing there’s no evidence that sexual abuse caused the boy’s death.

“Having more than one murder charge, particularly when you’re talking about felony murder, is not unusual,” said Sandburg. “In fact, and I’d have to double-check this, but there’s been several cases that we cited in our brief to that effect, where a defendant was charged with multiple different versions of homicide and was convicted on multiple different versions of homicide.”

“It all merges in terms of sentencing,” Sandburg added. “You can’t get multiple sentences for it, but you can theoretically be convicted of multiple different theories on how that occurred.”

Sandburg says the decision to charge Barrett with two counts of first-degree murder wasn’t made so the state could reach a plea deal in the case, but rather to make sure “certain information” gets presented at trial.

“Really it’s more of a different type of a strategy in terms of the way you approach the case,” said Sandburg. “It may be because you want to make sure one of them sticks or it may be because you have multiple theories and the facts aren’t 100 percent round peg into round hole sort of situations.”

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