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Escapee’s lawyers plan mental health evidence

April 11, 2013 • State News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Defense lawyers for an Arizona prison fugitive charged with killing an Oklahoma couple in New Mexico plan to present evidence that he has a mental defect or disease.

John McCluskey is scheduled to go on trial in federal court in Albuquerque in July for the 2010 killings of Gary and Linda Haas, of Tecumseh, Okla. They were abducted at a rest stop near Santa Rosa and later shot. Their remains were found in a burned-out camping trailer at an eastern New Mexico ranch.

McCluskey’s lawyers disclosed in a court filing that they plan to present expert testimony by a forensic neuropsychologist about clinical tests performed on McCluskey, the Albuquerque Journal (http://bit.ly/YoNZp2 ) reported Thursday.

Some of the tests assess a person’s planning ability and could be used to show lack of intent.

The neuropsychologist’s expert testimony may be presented during the guilt-or-innocence phase of trial and, if there is a guilty verdict, during the punishment portion. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

McCluskey was among three inmates who escaped from a privately operated state prison in Kingman, Ariz., on July 30, 2010. One inmate separated from the others immediately after escaping, while authorities allege McCluskey, fellow inmate Tracy Province and Casslyn Welch, an accomplice, went on a multi-state crime spree before being captured.

Province and Welch have pleaded guilty in the murder case and are expected to testify in McCluskey’s trial.

In other filings in the case, prosecutors said McCluskey had a criminal background that included running “an extensive and sophisticated drug importation and distribution enterprise” while imprisoned.

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