SCRANTON, Pa. – A prison inmate who briefly stopped his fatal bloody stabbing attack on a guard to clean his hand and chew gum from the dying guard's pocket has been spared the death sentence.
Jurors who convicted 40-year-old Jessie Con-ui last month of first-degree murder and murder of a correction officer failed to reach agreement Monday on whether he should face death or a life term, meaning he receives an automatic sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Prosecutors sought the death penalty, saying 34-year-old Eric Williams was stabbed more than 200 times at the Canaan federal prison in Waymart in February 2013 because Con-ui was angry about an earlier search of his cell.
While killing Williams, Con-ui cut his hand and stopped the attack to walk over to a shower and clean the wound before wrapping it in his shirt and continuing the attack, prosecutors said. Con-ui later paused to chew a piece of gum he took from the dying guard's pocket, they said.
Officers who followed a bloody trail to Con-ui's cell asked if he killed Williams, and they said he responded, "Yes, disrespect issue."
Con-ui is already serving 25 years to life for a 2002 gang initiation murder in Arizona.
Defense attorneys cited an upbringing that included poverty and domestic violence and flaws in the prison system. They also presented evidence about the effect his execution would have on his family, presenting witnesses including his young sons. They argued that he has already been punished, since he has been held in isolation at a super-maximum security prison in Colorado.
Con-ui apologized in court for killing Williams, who had been working in a housing unit at the prison, but said he couldn't explain his actions. He told Williams' family and others in the courtroom he's "always going to feel shame for taking an innocent man's life."