By Kim Palmer
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - A petition from family members of some of alleged serial killer Anthony Sowell's victims will ask prosecutors to accept a plea of life without parole, an attorney for family members said on Tuesday.
Sowell, 51, is charged with the murder of 11 women and faces the possibility of a death penalty sentence.
The letter signed by family members of five of the victims reads: "The death penalty for Anthony Sowell is not necessary, or even desirable, in comparison to the grief we families will continue to suffer under the realities and uncertainties of the criminal justice system."
Two family members of victim Tonia Carmichael signed the letter and are currently involved in a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Cleveland, according to Christine M. La Salvia, an attorney for the family. The petition has not yet been sent to prosecutor Bill Mason, but is being prepared, she said.
A gag order issued by Judge Dick Ambrose before the trial prohibits the prosecutor's office from commenting on whether a plea deal has been rejected or what weight this petition may have on any future plea deal.
Life in prison without parole is one of the sentences a jury would have to consider if the State does not prove all of the aggravated circumstances of the charges against Sowell.
Jury selection in the trial continued Tuesday with private interviews regarding each prospective juror's views on the death penalty. This first phase of the trial is expect to last into next week as each of the 200 jurors is questioned individually.
Sowell was arrested on October 29, 2009, two days after the initial discovery of bodies in and around his home. The decomposing bodies were found by police responding to a report by a woman who said she had been attacked in the home.
(Writing and reporting by Kim Palmer; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Greg McCune)