Trials & Litigation

Judge Orders Prosecutor and Defendant Into Mediation In Death Penalty Case

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A judge overseeing a first-degree murder case in eastern Idaho has ordered the prosecutor and defendant Michael Sparks into mediation, to see if they can resolve the death-penalty case before trial.

Sparks’ attorney, Bannock County Public Defender Randy Schulthies, said he was surprised by the Monday order by Sixth District Judge Stephen Dunn, explaining that he has never before seen mediation required in a murder case, the Associated Press reports.

Bannock County Prosecutor Mark Hiedeman, who is getting ready to retire after over 20 years on the job, told the Idaho State Journal (sub. req.) it’s not all that unusual to mediate a felony case and said the mediation could be beneficial. The mediation is expected to take place with Sixth District Judge Robert Naftz, who is a certified mediator.

“I think there could be some resolution obtained, and if there were, it would save the incoming prosecutor from having to try a murder case,” Hiedeman said.

Sparks, who is accused of beating his 41-year-old estranged wife, Judith Rachel Johnson, to death in May 2011 with a baseball bat and a rifle, has pleaded not guilty and maintains his innocence. He is jailed in lieu of $1 million bail in the Pocatello case.

Additional coverage:

Idaho State Journal (2011): “Suspect in Pocatello homicide case has history of domestic violence”

Idaho State Journal (2011): “Husband charged with killing wife; friends remember Judith Johnson”

KPVI: “Sparks Appears in Court”

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