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January 16, 2013 05:26 PM

McVay Can Face Death Penalty For 2011 Murder

The man who said a Sioux Falls murder was just the beginning of his plot to kill the President can face the death penalty.

Forty-two-year-old James McVay pleaded guilty but mentally ill for the murder of a Sioux Falls woman more than a year ago. On Wednesday a Sioux Falls judge ruled that McVay can face the death penalty.

McVay admits he killed 75-year-old Maybelle Schein inside her Sioux Falls home in July of 2011. He told investigators Schein's murder was the first of many he planned to carry out on his way to Washington D.C. where he would eventually assassinate President Barack Obama.

On Wednesday, his attorneys said because of his guilty but mentally ill plea, he should not face the death penalty.

"There's nothing in the capital punishment statutes that says you can kill someone who is mentally ill,” Minnehaha County Public Defender Traci Smith said in court.

McVay's attorneys argue that state law doesn't specifically outline whether guilty but mentally ill defendant's can face the death penalty.

But Minnehaha County State's Attorney Aaron McGowan argued that state law allows the same punishment for those who plead guilty but mentally ill as those defendant's who are found guilty.

"Clearly the legislature desired that the defendant face any and all punishments," McGowan said.

Judge Peter Lieberman agreed with McGowan's argument saying that the law does allow the death penalty in cases like that of McVay's.

Lieberman did say in court that the defense should file an appeal of his decision with the South Dakota Supreme Court, so that he can have the justices opinion on his ruling before they go forward with the sentencing hearing for McVay.

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