01:50 PM CST on Thursday, December 11, 2008
By TIARA M. ELLIS / The Dallas Morning News
firstname.lastname@example.org Convicted murderer Robert Sparks has been sentenced to death for the fatal stabbing of his wife and two stepsons last year.
A Dallas County jury reached its decision this morning after deliberating for 9 1/2 hours over two days.
Mr. Sparks was convicted last week of killing his wife, Chare Agnew, and stepsons Harold Sublet Jr., 9, and Raeqwon Agnew, 10, in September 2007.
Then, he has told police, he raped his two stepdaughters, who were 12 and 14 at the time. He tried to justify his actions by telling police and reporters that Ms. Agnew was putting insecticide in his food to poison him and that the boys helped her.
Defense attorney Paul Johnson told the jury that his client is not crazy or legally insane, but that he is mentally ill. Psychologists testified that Mr. Sparks, 34, suffers from schizoaffective disorder, paranoid delusions and anti-social disorder.
"He don't like me saying that about him," Mr. Johnson said during closing arguments. "You know why? Because he don't believe it."
Now that his condition has been diagnosed, Mr. Sparks would not be a continuing threat to society – a requirement to spare his life – because he'd be on medication while in prison, Mr. Johnson said.
Prosecutors called this crime one of the most vicious they had ever seen.
"Our sole focus, our sole goal, our sole objective in this case is for... Robert Sparks to be strapped to the gurney and for the drugs to start to flow," said prosecutor Andy Beach.
"If this case does not deserve the death penalty, then I don't know one that does," Mr. Beach said.
Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins presented the final closing argument, a rarity for an elected district attorney in a county the size of Dallas. It was even rarer because of Mr. Watkins' admitted personal concerns about the death penalty.
"This is very difficult for me to get up here and ask for you to take a human life, because I value it," said Mr. Watkins. But, Mr. Watkins continued, Mr. Sparks "has been working for this day for 34 years. Reward him and give him what he deserves: the death sentence."
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