A US court judge has formally sentenced a man to death for killing a woman as part of what he said was a plot to assassinate President Barack Obama.
The hearing on Tuesday formalized the unanimous vote of a jury to sentence 44-year-old James McVay to death. McVay would have been sentenced to life in prison without parole if the jury’s decision had not been unanimous.
McVay pleaded guilty, but mentally ill, to murder a 75-year-old Maybelle Schein by stabbing in 2011. McVay said he killed Schein and stole her car as part of his plan to drive to Washington and kill the president. He was later arrested in Madison, Wisconsin.
Schein’s family, prosecutors, McVay and his defense team also did not comment during the hearing. “I don’t have a lot to say here,” said Circuit Judge Peter Lieberman adding, “This is a situation where a jury’s verdict has a lot more weight than what I could say.”
McVay’s sentence will be automatically reviewed by the South Dakota Supreme Court.
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The state’s highest court considers three issues in such reviews. They include whether the sentence was affected by passion, prejudice, or any other arbitrary factor; whether the evidence supports the finding of a judge or jury of a statutory aggravating circumstance, and whether the sentence of death is out of line with the penalty imposed in other, similar cases.