Death penalty remains possible in Erie slaying

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ERIE – A northwestern Pennsylvania judge has declined to bar prosecutors from seeking the death penalty against a man charged in the stabbing death of a woman in an Erie apartment.


Defense attorneys for 32-year-old James Duncan argued that medical evidence indicated that 27-year-old Nikkia Sawyer may have been dead when she was stabbed dozens of times in June 2011.


But The Erie Times-News says Erie County’s forensic pathologist testified that his autopsy indicated that the victim suffered more than 50 knife wounds before she died.


Judge Daniel Brabender then ruled that a jury could conclude that she was tortured as she was killed, making the crime eligible for the death penalty.


Defense attorneys have also argued that Duncan’s IQ may be too low to allow him to be executed.


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