A Minnehaha County jury says James McVay's murder of 75-year-old Maybelle Schein was so evil that it qualifies for the death penalty. A jury of seven men and five women handed down that verdict less than an hour after deliberations began Wednesday afternoon.
McVay has already pleaded guilty but mentally ill for Schein's murder. What the jury had to decide Wednesday was whether his crime meets the standards for the death penalty under South Dakota law - and the jury said it does on two different accounts.
After just 50 minutes of deliberations the jury said McVay's murder of Maybelle Schein was both vile and inhuman and they also believe it was carried out to gain something of value.
During closing arguments, Minnehaha County State's Attorney Aaron McGowan says the case presented over the past four days showed the jury why McVay should face the death penalty.
He referred to a police interview entered as evidence in which McVay said he didn't have to kill Schein, but wanted to get blood on his hands before he went to assassinate the president.
"That is the essence of a depraved mind," McGowan said.
Defense attorneys told jurors that McVay wasn't in his right mind when he carried out the crime. They say he was tripping on cough medicine and alcohol he drank the night before, which made him believe he was hearing the voice of Lucifer.
The defense also told jurors McVay has been diagnosed with a delusional disorder.
''James was going to go to Washington D.C. and kill the president on the golf course. Is that someone thinking normally?” Assistant Minnehaha County Public Defender Michelle Thomas said during closing arguments.
Yet the jury ultimately decided the crime does qualify for the death penalty and in a matter of days the same group will decide whether it will be McVay's fate.
Jurors will come back at 9 a.m. Thursday morning to start hearing arguments about why McVay should get the death penalty. The prosecution expects to make its case in the morning. The defense will then try to convince jurors to spare McVay's life by offering what is called mitigating evidence. McVay’s attorneys plan to start presenting their case Thursday afternoon and continue with two more witnesses Monday morning.