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Death penalty sought for alleged child murderer

Friday, November 23, 2012

KENNETT, Mo. - Dunklin County Prosecuting Attorney Stephen P. Sokoloff has gone on record saying unless circumstances of the case change, he will be asking for the death penalty in the case of the State vs. Shawn Morgan, alleged murderer of three-year-old Breann Rodriguez of Senath, Mo.

Papers have already been filed with the court in the event Sokoloff decided to seek the death penalty.

"I have filed a motion of aggravating circumstances which means unless circumstances change, yes," he said in answer to the question of whether he would seek the death penalty.

In the most recent court appearance, Prosecuting Attorney Sokoloff represented the State of Missouri and Morgan appeared with his attorney Thomas Marshall. It was during this time that a ruling on the motions that Morgan's attorney had filed with the court earlier were heard, including a motion to continue trial.

The continuance was allowed and Morgan's trial has been taken off the court docket for Dec. 10, 2012.

Sokoloff noted that the motions that were filed were the Public Defender Capital Unit Packet and are filed in every case. Others sustained included:

* Defendant's motion to submit juror questionnaires. It was noted in Missouri Case Net that both parties will try to agree on questionnaires. If this cannot be done, the court will determine the questionnaires to be submitted;

* Defendant's motion to compel state to provide instructions prior to trial. The instructions are to provided 10 days before the trial begins;

* Defendant's motion to invoke rule prior to voir dire is sustained. Sokoloff explained that this means witnesses cannot be in the courtroom prior to their testimony;

* Defendant's motion to compel notice of intent to offer nonstatutory aggravators is sustained.

"If I intend to offer evidence that matters in sentencing that are not among the ones that are specifically listed that the jury may consider in assessing punishment, I'm supposed to give them notice of that," Sokoloff said.

* Defendant's motion in limine to exclude any testimonial statements is sustained in part.

* Any statements that are determined to be testimonial under the ruling of "Crawford versus Washington" is sustained. That's just basically saying courts compile the law," Sokoloff commented.

* Defendant's motion to discover arrest and conviction reports of witness is sustained.

*All conviction information will be provided. Arrests concerning current pending charges shall be disclosed as well," Sokoloff said, adding, "Arrest records in conjunction with cases where no charges were filed or where they were subsequently dismissed are not."

When asked why the trial was removed from the court docket of Dec. 10, he explained, "There's a number of additional issues that need to be taken up prior to a trial. There's a whole mariot of things."

Three year-old Rodriguez went missing from near her home on Aug. 6, 2011.

A search of the area was conducted by various agencies which included the Federal Bureau of Investigation Task Force, the Dunklin County Sheriff's Department, Missouri State Highway Patrol, Kennett Police Department and the Bootheel Drug Task Force, as well as members of the community.

Ten days later the child's remains were located near the floodway ditches northeast of Hornersville, Mo., approximately eight miles southeast of her home in Senath.

At this time, a date has not been set for the trial. Jurors will still be selected from Phelps County, Mo.

* Some information for this article has been taken from Missouri Case Net.

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