Lawyer Challenges Ark. Law on Death Sentence

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) - A lawyer for a man accused of killing a student at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville is challenging the constitutionality of laws setting out capital murder and the death penalty.

Zachariah Marcyniuk is to stand trial in December for the March 9 stabbing death of his ex-girlfriend, Katharine Wood of Greenbrier. An English major, Wood was found dead in her apartment off campus. Marcyniuk has been charged with capital murder, which carries a penalty of death or life in prison without parole.

His lawyer, W.H. Taylor, says Marcyniuk would be doomed to death if the jury finds him guilty and finds just one aggravating factor. Taylor says the Arkansas capital murder scheme does not let a jury show mercy for a defendant and amounts to a mandatory death sentence. He also says the law does not provide anything to differentiate between capital murder and the lesser charge of first-degree murder.

Prosecutor John Threet has said the death penalty is justified in Marcyniuk's case because the "defendant committed the murder in an especially cruel and depraved manner."

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)