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William Wood Sentenced to LWOP in 2018 NY Double Slaying
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Thread: William Wood Sentenced to LWOP in 2018 NY Double Slaying

  1. #1
    Senior Member Frequent Poster Steven's Avatar
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    William Wood Sentenced to LWOP in 2018 NY Double Slaying




    Accused DeWitt Chili’s murderer denied guilty plea by death-penalty case

    By Douglass Dowty
    Syracuse.com

    Syracuse, NY -- A Syracuse man accused of killing two former co-workers during a late-night robbery at the DeWitt Chili’s restaurant wanted to plead guilty today in state court and spend the rest of his life in prison.

    But a prosecutor denied William Wood, 33, the chance to plead guilty under an obscure law. Chief Assistant District Attorney Melinda McGunnigle wants to give federal prosecutors more time to pursue a possible death-penalty case.

    Wood’s lawyer, Ben Coffin, called the law unconstitutional and argued that his client should be allowed to plead guilty today.

    But County Court Judge Stephen Dougherty said the law, as it stands on the books, gave McGunnigle veto power over Wood’s plea. That’s based on a little-known provision that requires prosecutor consent for someone to plead guilty to first-degree murder.

    Most murders are not first-degree, so this doesn’t come up a lot. But because Wood is accused of killing two people during the course of a robbery, that bumps it up from the more traditional second-degree murder charge.

    Wood is hoping that a plea and sentence to life without parole will convince federal prosecutors not to pursue the death penalty. A plea in state court would not deny federal prosecutors a chance to pursue the death penalty. But there’s much less chance they’d spend the time and money to prosecute someone who’s already certain to be in prison for the rest of his life.

    On the other hand, local prosecutors want to give the feds more time to pursue the capital case.

    Coffin noted that two other similar provisions requiring local prosecutor consent had been struck down by the courts as unconstitutional. Given lawmakers’ intent was the same in this case, he argued this law was also unconstitutional.

    Dougherty did not rule today as to whether he would take Wood’s plea in state court. But he gave prosecutors a week to submit arguments pertaining to why the plea should not be allowed.

    Wood is prepared to admit shooting to death Kristopher Hicks and Stephen Gudknecht at 1 a.m. Sept 15, 2018. Wood was a former employee at the restaurant who came back to steal cash.

    Federal prosecutor Lisa Fletcher pursued and obtained an indictment against Wood, which was announced earlier this week. His federal case is just beginning.

    Coffin said today that Wood had been prepared to plead guilty from the get-go, though there were some legal issues that needed to be addressed first. He argued that Wood should not be prevented from pleading guilty now, simply because the death penalty was on the table.

    McGunnigle had previously offered Wood a plea of life in prison without parole. But she withdrew that offer today in her attempt to give federal prosecutors more time.

    Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick joined McGunnigle in judge’s chambers today to argue that Wood’s plea should not be accepted.

    https://www.syracuse.com/crime/2019/...alty-case.html

  2. #2
    Senior Member Frequent Poster Steven's Avatar
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    William Wood pleads guilty to killing 2 former co-workers at DeWitt Chili’s

    By Sarah Moses Buckshot
    Syracuse.com

    SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- A Syracuse man pleaded guilty Friday morning to killing two former co-workers during a late-night robbery at the DeWitt Chili’s restaurant in September 2018.

    William Wood, 33, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. He will face life in prison without the possibility of parole, according to County Court Judge Stephen Dougherty.

    Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick said he is relinquishing jurisdiction to the federal government, which means any sentence that is given in Onondaga County Court will run at the end of any federal sentence. Federal prosecutors have said they are pursuing a possible death-penalty case.

    Fitzpatrick said he was in touch with U.S. Attorney Grant Jacquith, whose office is handling the federal charges, the day after the murders. Fitzpatrick said he expects a Department of Justice committee will make a decision before Wood is sentenced on whether federal prosecutors will pursue a death-penalty case.

    Wood’s defense attorney, Ben Coffin, said Wood is hoping to avoid the death penalty by pleading guilty to the state charges.

    "This is the outcome we were expecting,'' Coffin said of Wood pleading guilty. “This has been our target since the inception.”

    Wood admitted to shooting to death Kristopher Hicks and Stephen Gudknecht at 1 a.m. Sept 15, 2018. Wood was a former employee at the restaurant who came back to steal cash. Wood admitted to shooting both men in their heads.

    Wood pleaded guilty to all 10 counts of the indictment against him, including attempted murder of another former Chili’s co-worker by attempting to shoot her with a loaded handgun.

    Fitzpatrick said by Wood pleading guilty it saves the family from “lengthy, heart-wrenching” trial. Fitzpatrick said he believes Wood is “non-remorseful and evil.”

    “The empty places at the table, the holidays that are going to be spent without their child and their father, and it’s so heartbreaking,” Fitzpatrick said. “There never ever will be closure for these people.”

    Sentencing will be held on April 15.

    https://www.syracuse.com/crime/2019/...tt-chilis.html

  3. #3
    Senior Member Frequent Poster Steven's Avatar
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    Federal prosecutors’ push for death penalty in Chili’s double murder in DeWitt is rare

    By Elizabeth Doran
    Syracuse.com

    SYRACUSE, N.Y. - The U.S. Attorney’s office in Syracuse is continuing to seek the death penalty for William Wood, who pleaded guilty March 1 in Onondaga County court to killing two of his former co-workers at the Chili’s restaurant in DeWitt.

    Federal prosecutors rarely seek the federal death penalty, according to experts.

    Since 1988, the federal government has taken to trial only 203 federal death-penalty cases, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. It has executed only three people in the last 31 years, the center reports.

    Wood faces life in state prison after pleading guilty to all 10 counts against him including first-degree murder and attempted murder. New York does not have the death penalty. He’s set to be sentenced to life in state prison without parole on April 15.

    With Wood headed to prison for the rest of his life, why are federal prosecutors continuing to pursue a federal death penalty case against him?

    Richard Southwick, assistant U.S. attorney in Syracuse and spokesperson for the office, said only that the federal indictment charging Wood with robbery and murder through the use of a firearm during a crime of violence remains pending, and the process for determining whether to seek the death penalty is ongoing.

    Federal prosecutors seeking the death penalty must take the case to a committee at the U.S. Justice Department that makes a recommendation on whether to seek death or not. U. S. Attorney William Barr would make the final decision.

    Lisa Peebles, a federal public defender who is representing Wood, said it’s “pretty unusual” for federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty in a case where the defendant is already going to receive life without parole in prison.

    Some experts argue that this case is so horrific that Wood deserves the death penalty, while others say that it doesn’t make sense to spend the time and money on a death-penalty case when he is sentenced to life in prison with no chance of getting out.

    The federal death penalty was last considered in Central New York for David Renz, who pleaded guilty to raping a 10-year-old girl and killing Liverpool school librarian Lori Bresnahan after abducting them in the parking lot of Great Northern Mall in Clay on March 14, 2013.

    Renz was sent to state prison for life without a chance for parole.

    Federal officials in Washington, D.C. decided against seeking the death penalty for Renz.

    Wood pleaded guilty to executing two workers at the Chili’s Grill and Bar on Erie Boulevard East in DeWitt. He fatally shot Kristopher Hicks and Stephen Gudknecht during a robbery of $875. Two other workers escaped after Wood’s gun jammed, authorities said.

    Cornell University law professor John H. Blume, director of Cornell’s death penalty project who also teaches trial techniques, said it’s rare for someone facing life without parole to be considered for the death penalty.

    "In this case, I can’t see where there is a legitimate federal interest,'' he said. “Usually the federal government gets involved if it’s a federal corrections officer, or a postal worker, or a federal crime involving the drug trade or organized crime.

    "This seems like your garden-variety homicide on the state level,'' Blume said. “It’s a puzzler as to why.”

    Blume said the federal government normally takes into account whether the federal interest has been served by the case’s resolution.

    Spending money to pursue the death penalty in Wood’s case doesn’t make sense, he said. The feds can hang their hat that the killings violate the Hobbs Act (a federal law that make attempted or actual robbery that affects interstate commerce a crime) but it doesn’t seem to warrant it in this case, Blume said.

    Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick disagrees.

    "I don’t recall any other case with this level of egregiousness,'' Fitzpatrick said. "And he (Wood) was planning to the exact same thing at Ruby Tuesday’s. "

    Wood killed two people, but if his gun hadn’t jammed, it would have been four people, Fitzpatrick said.

    “This wasn’t a robbery where someone was killed unintentionally,'' he said.

    Lance Cimino, a former U.S. Attorney who represents Tracey Brown, a defendant in the Wood case, said he can’t imagine the federal government will spend the time and resources on this as a death penalty case. Brown is also facing a state murder charge after authorities said she provided the illegal gun to Wood.

    If for some reason prosecutors get permission to seek the death penalty for Wood, Cimino said he expects the case would go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    There have been other murders during a robbery in Central New York that have not become federal cases. Most recently two 18-year-old men were charged with killing a corner store clerk during a robbery in December. There has been no talk of seeking the federal death penalty.

    Most death penalty convictions occur in state courts, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

    There are currently 62 prisoners on federal death row compared to more than 2,500 on death row in states, according to the center.

    Since the reinstatement of the federal death penalty in 1988, only three people have been executed by the federal government, according to the Death Penalty Information Center:

    • Louis Jones Jr.., March 18, 2003 Executed for the rape and murder of Pvt. Tracie McBride, Texas
    • Juan Raul Garza, June 19, 2001. Executed for the murder of Thomas Albert Rumbo and ordering the murders of seven other people in conjunction with a drug-smuggling ring, Texas
    • Timothy McVeigh, June 11, 2001 Murder of eight federal law enforcement officers through the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, Oklahoma.

  4. #4
    Administrator Helen's Avatar
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    Federal authorities seek the death penalty against William Wood Jr.

    By WSYR News

    SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) -- United States Attorney General William Barr has authorized the U.S. Attorney's Office in Syracuse to pursue the death penalty against the man who admitted to shooting and killing two people inside a DeWitt Chili's restaurant in September.

    William Wood Jr. opened fire inside the Chili's on Erie Boulevard, killing two during an armed robbery.

    Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick says he likely planned to kill more, but there was an issue with his gun.

    Wood Jr. was indicted by a federal grand jury on Feb. 14.

    While charges contained in that indictment carry a maximum sentence of death, the death penalty may only be pursued if authorized by the Attorney General.

    Following Attorney General Barr’s authorization, a Notice of Intent to Pursue the Death Penalty was filed by the United States Attorney’s Office.

    Wood is scheduled to be sentenced on Monday to state charges he pleaded guilty to. He pleaded guilty to a 10-count indictment, including charges for first-degree murder, second-degree murder and robbery.

    Wood is expected to get a life sentence from the state.

    The death penalty is not allowed in New York State and can not be set as a sentence by county or state judges, which is why federal prosecutors are involved.

    The last time the death penalty was last considered in New York was for the case of David Renz in 2013, who was convicted of murdering a Liverpool school librarian and raping a 10-year-old girl after abducting them in the parking lot of Great Northern Mall.

    Four others have been charged in connection to the double homicide.

    https://www.localsyr.com/news/local-...-jr/1921696300
    "I realize this may sound harsh, but as a father and former lawman, I really don't care if it's by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions."
    - Oklahoma Rep. Mike Christian

    “There are some people who just do not deserve to live,”
    - Rev. Richard Hawke

    “Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence"
    - Edgar Allan Poe

  5. #5
    Senior Member CnCP Addict one_two_bomb's Avatar
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    As much as I'd love for this filthy subhuman to drop dead, why are the feds seeking the death penalty in this case? Did it occur on federal land? Was it a "hate crime" (i.e. the victims were black, jewish, etc)? What jurisdiction do they have?

  6. #6
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    Hobbs Act gives federal jurisdiction over any robbery that affects interstate commerce. I'm not sure the Supreme Court as currently composed would agree to so broad an interpretation of federal power under the Commerce Clause.

  7. #7
    Senior Member CnCP Addict one_two_bomb's Avatar
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    What a load of crap. Nothing but an abuse of power by the federal government, with my tax dollars that they steal from me

  8. #8
    Administrator Helen's Avatar
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    William Wood Jr. sentenced to life in prison for DeWitt Chili's double homicide

    By WSYR News

    SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) William Wood Jr., the man who opened fire inside a DeWitt Chili's, killing Steven Gudknecht and Kristopher Hicks, has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

    Back in September, Wood attempted to rob the Chili's on Erie Boulevard when he shot and killed two men.

    Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick says Wood planned to shoot more people, but his gun jammed.

    Wood pleaded guilty to a 10-count indictment on charges including first- and second-degree murder and robbery.

    At the State level, Wood has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

    The death penalty is not allowed in New York State and can not be set as a sentence by county or state judges.

    However, U.S. Attorney General William Barr has authorized a Notice of Intent to Pursue the Death Penalty.

    The last time the death penalty was last considered in New York was for the case of David Renz in 2013, who was convicted of murdering a Liverpool school librarian and raping a 10-year-old girl after abducting them in the parking lot of Great Northern Mall.

    "I truly am sorry for what I've done, whether people believe that or not. If I could take it back in a heartbeat, I would," Wood said.

    Four others have been charged in connection to the double homicide.

    Loved ones speak out

    Family of the deceased victims and surviving victims addressed the court before sentencing,

    Gudknecht's mother, Nancy Chappell, spoke highly of her son, painting him as a loving single-father who loved being in the kitchen and put his family first.

    "This cowardly act of violence carried out by William Wood was unnecessary and it has shaken our family and this community," she said.

    Chappell recalls telling her 14-year-old granddaughter that her father was murdered, saying "her screams when I told her still stay with me."

    Chappell is now caring for her son's children and was fired from her job because she had to take care of them full-time.

    Gudknecht's daughter also read a letter in court, sharing how important her father was to her and described the lasting impact his death has had on her-- she said she has been in and out of therapy and is failing some classes because she can't focus in her grief.

    Hick's father also addressed the court before sentencing.

    He adopted Kristopher at two-days old, saying "he was the apple of my eye."

    "He has destroyed not only my family, but his younger brother, Ken. He is angry, lost and doesn't want to leave the house in fear," Hicks said of Wood.

    Wood had previously worked at that Chili's restaurant and knew all the victims by name.

    https://www.localsyr.com/news/local-...ide/1926583517
    "I realize this may sound harsh, but as a father and former lawman, I really don't care if it's by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions."
    - Oklahoma Rep. Mike Christian

    “There are some people who just do not deserve to live,”
    - Rev. Richard Hawke

    “Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence"
    - Edgar Allan Poe

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