Missouri judge faces rare chance to impose death penalty

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A southwest Missouri jury’s inability to decide whether a man 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 whether Craig Wood will get the death penalty or 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.

The Springfield News-Leader reports Missouri and Indiana are the only states where a judge can impose a death sentence. But in 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that only a jury, not a judge, can make that decision.

Wood’s attorney wouldn’t say if he will appeal if the judge orders the death sentence.