High court declines to hear Nebraska, Missouri death cases

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FILE – In this March 26, 2014, file photo, Craig Wood, left, enters the courtroom for a hearing in Springfield, Mo. A southwest Missouri jury’s inability to decide whether Wood should be put to death for kidnapping and killing a 10-year-old girl sets up a rare situation where a judge will make that decision. Circuit Judge Thomas Mountjoy is scheduled to announce Jan. 11, 2018 whether Craig Wood should get the death penalty or be sentenced to life in prison. Wood was convicted of killing Hailey Owen in Springfield in February 2014 but the Greene County jury couldn’t reach a unanimous decision on his sentence. (Nathan Papes/The Springfield News-Leader via AP, Pool, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is passing for now on deciding whether juries must find all facts necessary to impose a death sentence or whether judges can play a role, an issue Nebraska and Missouri death row inmates had asked the court to take up.

The high court on Monday declined to hear appeals brought by Nikko Jenkins and Craig Wood. The court, as is usual, didn’t comment in turning away the cases.

Wood is on death row in Missouri after being convicted of kidnapping, raping and killing 10-year-old Hailey Owens in 2014. The jury that convicted Would couldn’t decide whether to sentence him to death or life in prison without parole. That left the decision up to the judge who oversaw Wood’s trial.

Jenkins is on death row in Nebraska after killing four people in Omaha shortly after his 2013 release from prison, where he had served 10 years for two carjackings. Jenkins pleaded no contest to the killings and a three-judge panel was appointed to sentence him. Jenkins waived his right to have a jury assess aggravating circumstances and the panel sentenced him to death.

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