Death Penalty Possible for suspects in murder of Trooper

Please refer to the article below from the Democrat & Chronicle newspaper of Rochester, which details the possibility of the three men accused of murdering New York State Trooper Andrew J. Sperr facing a federal death penalty. A link to the newspaper’s web page is also included at the bottom of the article.

Gary Craig
Staff writer

(March 22, 2006) — The men accused of murdering State Trooper Andrew Sperr could face the federal death penalty.

Federal authorities and the Chemung County District Attorney’s Office are discussing whether federal charges should be brought against the men accused in the killing of the 33-year-old Sperr, making the case eligible for the death penalty.

There has been no firm decision, but there have been talks about a federal prosecution, said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathleen Mehltretter.

"There is a possibility for a death penalty in the federal court," she said.

Sperr, a Greece native, was slain March 1.

Three Chemung County men have been indicted on murder charges in the killing. Authorities allege that Anthony Horton of Elmira fatally shot Sperr after he and two other men — brothers Bryan Adams and Wayne Adams — robbed a bank in Big Flats, Chemung County.

If the case were to move forward in federal court, Chemung DA John Trice could be appointed as a specially designated federal prosecutor and be part of a prosecution team, Mehltretter said.

"They’ve been doing an absolutely fantastic job (with the prosecution) in Chemung County," she said.

Trice could not be reached Tuesday.

The case would likely be tried in U.S. District Court in Rochester.

Sperr’s brother, Bill, said he’s aware there have been talks about a federal prosecution.

"From my perspective, it’s a good thing," he said, noting New York state’s death penalty has been found unconstitutional.

"Therefore, let’s take it federal and get these guys what they deserve," Sperr said.

Republican Gov. George Pataki recently renewed a push for the death penalty for cop killers; the Democrat-controlled Assembly has stymied measures that would restore capital punishment.

Local activist Clare Regan, a death penalty opponent, said she thinks the U.S. Department of Justice is eager for executions in areas where there is no capital punishment.

"Any state that doesn’t have the death penalty, if they can work the feds in, they will," she said.

But federal executions have been rare.

Three people — including Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, who grew up in Pendleton, Niagara County — have been executed for federal crimes in the past five years.

The federal death penalty statute allows for capital punishment for murders committed during a bank robbery.

Horton, as the man accused of the fatal shooting, could fall within those legal parameters, while it could be more difficult to seek the death penalty for the Adams brothers.

Andrew Sperr shot Bryan Adams four times during the shootout. Adams survived.

Mehltretter said authorities were discussing whether all three of the accused men could be eligible for execution.

Click here for a link to the Democrat & Chronicle newspaper