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District Attorney Burns Announces Death Penalty Decision

There was an important development Tuesday in the murder trial of Robin Glen James and Joanna McElrath, the pair who face felony charges for the brutal January killing of 37 year-old Susanville police officer Robert McElrath.

According to a press release from Lassen County District Attorney Bob Burns, his office has decided to not seek the death penalty in the case. Citing the practical difficulties involved with successfully imposing a death sentence on a woman in the State of California, and the family’s need for closure, Burns explained that although the decision was his to make he did so with the input of McElrath’s family and that of local law enforcement agencies. Burns continued to explain that Joanna McElrath and Robin James will still be facing life in prison without any possibility of parole.

Following the District Attorney’s announcement Tuesday Lassen County Sheriff Dean Growdon issued a statement supporting the decision and explained his reasoning. Growdon wrote, “The murder of Robert McElrath has caused a great deal of heartache for his family, our community and our local law enforcement professionals. The law enforcement personnel who worked the case did an exemplary job, and their efforts will never be forgotten.”

Growdon talked a little about the process of bringing the trial to court and gaining a conviction, “As this case moves through the justice system there are many critical decisions that will have to be made. One such decision was the decision by the District Attorney to not seek the death penalty in either case.”

Sheriff Growdon said he supports Burns’ decision because, “The most important people associated with this case at this time are the family of Robert McElrath. The family has decided that they do not wish to pursue the death penalty. I have a great deal of respect for their wishes and therefore support them.”

“Each portion of the criminal justice system has an area of responsibility within that system. The District Attorney has the final authority in deciding which crimes get charged within Lassen County. I respect his position in our criminal justice system and as such I respect his position related to this case just as I would expect him to respect the role of my office.”

Growdon said he had been asked several times after the decision about his thoughts on the death penalty by people assuming that he doesn’t support pursuing the death penalty due to the complications it poses and the lengthy appeals process associated with it. The Sheriff explains, “I do support the death penalty and feel that it should be pursued regardless of the legal complications when warranted by the facts of the case.”

“The men and women of my office will continue in their efforts to see that justice is served in this case.”

Both defendants have been in custody without bail since their January 6th arrests.

Jeremy Couso
Jeremy Couso
SusanvilleStuff.com Publisher/Editor
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