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Lawer Wants 2nd-Degree Murder Verdict

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The lawyer for Yosemite killer Cary Stayner has asked jurors to convict Stayner of second-degree murder – a verdict that would spare his life.

In closing arguments today defense lawyer Marcia Morrissey said Stayner was too addled with mental illness to intentionally kill.

Morrissey stressed the defense was not asking the jury to acquit the former motel handyman. But she noted that because of Stayner’s mental disease and brain defects the acts weren’t at the level of first-degree murder.

Stayner has pleaded innocent by reason of insanity to murdering 42-year-old Carole Sund and her 15-year-old daughter Juli, and their Argentine friend 16-year-old Silvina Pelosso in February 1999.

The central piece of evidence in the trial is Stayner’s tape-recorded confession. Morrissey says without Stayner’s confession the crime would not have been solved.

Morrissey said FBI agents manipulated Stayner. She ridiculed the prosecution theory that Stayner was a calculating cold-blooded killer who tried to trick the FBI and mislead its probe.

Jurors are expected to begin deliberations by tomorrow.

Stayner is already serving life without parole after pleading guilty in federal court to murdering 26-year-old nature guide Joie Armstrong.