(This story is written by Missourinet news director Brian Hauswirth and reporter Brea Douglas from Missourinet Springfield television partner KOLR-10)

A southwest Missouri man charged with abducting and killing 10-year-old Hailey Owens in Springfield in 2014 says the state’s death penalty statute is unconstitutional.

Craig Wood is charged in Greene County with first degree murder and four other felonies

A court hearing took place last week in Greene County.

Reporter Brea Douglas from Missourinet Springfield television partner KOLR-10 reports defense attorneys presented a national jury researcher as an expert witness.

Douglas says the researcher has found that it’s difficult for jurors to follow instructions throughout a trial. The researcher also testifies that jurors have a misunderstanding about the death penalty and are racially biased in some cases.

Douglas reports prosecutors are asking Judge Thomas Mountjoy to reject the study.

Greene County prosecutors have charged Craig Wood with first degree murder, armed criminal action, kidnapping, rape and sodomy.

His jury trial is scheduled to begin on October 23.

Wood contends Missouri’s death penalty statute is unconstitutional, because of a “flawed jury selection process.”

Wood cites a case called “Furman vs. Georgia”, and also cites “Mills vs. Maryland”.

The Owens’ family attorney, David Ransin, says the family wants the legal process to end. The family is not requesting the death penalty.

“Their basic wish would be for Mr. Wood to step up and confess his crimes, accept his responsibility, which also means accepting accountability,” Ransin tells KOLR-10. “Hailey did not get a chance to choose her fate. Mr. Wood did that for her. Mr. Wood needs to surrender his fate.”

Judge Mountjoy hasn’t ruled on the death penalty issue yet. Wood’s next court appearance is set for August 30.

Meantime, two state lawmakers plan to file “Hailey’s Law” again next year. State Rep. Curtis Trent, R-Springfield, and State Sen. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, have told Missourinet they plan to pre-file the bill in December.

State Rep. Curtis Trent (R-Springfield)

State Rep. Curtis Trent (R-Springfield) testifies before a Missouri House committee in February 2017 (photo courtesy of Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications}

The bill would require Missouri’s Amber Alert Oversight Committee to meet at least annually. The current state law says the committee should “regularly review” the Amber Alert System, but doesn’t specify what “regularly” means.

The Hailey’s Law language passed in both the House and the Senate in 2017, but not in the same bill.