D.A. to seek death penalty in cop murder - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

D.A. to seek death penalty in cop murder

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By Jim Wallace - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –The Dougherty District Attorney will seek the death penalty against the man charged with murdering a Dougherty County Police Officer. His fellow officers say that decision sends an important message.

D.A. Greg Edwards said ever since Dougherty County Police Lt. Cliff Rouse was gunned down chasing an armed robbery suspect, he felt he would seek the death penalty in the shooting suspect's trial. Today he officially announced he would seek the ultimate penalty.

District Attorney Greg Edwards said all the legal factors are there to seek the death penalty against Dontavius Thomas, charged with shooting Lt. Cliff Rouse twice as he ran from a convenience store armed robbery on Sylvester Road. But the D.A. said it was also important to the community.

Edwards said "This is a case where we must make sure that our police officers are protected and the jury should have the option of considering the death penalty in this particular matter."

Rouse's friends and co-workers at the Dougherty County Police Department agree the death penalty is justified in this murder.

 Dougherty County Police Chief Don Cheek said "It won't bring Lt. Rouse back, but I think it's the proper decision."

Thomas will be the second death penalty case that Edwards will have currently awaiting trial.  He has also filed paperwork to seek the death penalty against former jailer Allen Robinson, for the murder of Roshanda Dowell. He is also considering seeking the death penalty for Jordan Harris, who shot Albany hardware store owner Walter Phelps last year. Death penalty cases are more costly for the state because of prolonged appeals, but Edwards says the cost can not supersede justice. But he does weigh in the family's wishes before seeking the death penalty.

Edwards said "I try to honor the family's wishes, balanced out with the need for justice may be served. For the larger picture of our community and the safety of our community."

Chief Cheek said seeking the death penalty in Lt. Rouse's death also sends a strong message to police officers that the justice system is supporting them in their dangerous work.

The D.A. says another factor in seeking the death penalty, Thomas was 20 years old when Lt. Rouse was shot and killed. His age could also play a factor in sentencing, if he is found guilty in the murder.

Edwards said the cost of prosecuting a death penalty case isn't really any more than a normal murder case. The increased cost comes if the state has to pay for defendant's attorneys and appeals.

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