Trial Prosecutor Now Opposes Death Sentence as Arizona Execution Approaches

Daniel Cook is scheduled for execution on April 5 in Arizona, despite the fact that the lead prosecutor at his 1988 capital trial has said that he would not have sought the death penalty if he had known more about Cook’s traumatic background and mental illness. At trial, Cook waived his right to counsel and represented himself after learning his appointed lawyer was suffering from bipolar disorder and was drinking heavily. The judge denied Cook’s petition for a mental heath expert, and Cook presented no mitigating evidence. Since his trial, it has been revealed that Cook was subjected to severe and repeated abuse as a young child by his family. He has also been diagnosed as suffering from organic brain damage and post-traumatic stress disorder. In a statement signed in 2010, Eric Larsen, the lead prosecutor in Cook’s trial and now in private practice, revealed that he would not have sought the death penalty if he had known that Cook had suffered abuse that “mirrored the circumstances surrounding the crime.” The prosecutor also noted that the appointed lawyer was “at the low end of the competency scale for the handling of the defense of a standard felony” and “appeared neither capable nor willing to put forth the effort necessary to represent a defendant charged with a capital offense.”

(“Prosecutor Opposes Arizona Death Sentence,” Amnesty International, March 2011). See Mental Illness and Representation.