By Kim Palmer
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Defense attorneys for convicted Ohio serial killer Anthony Sowell were granted permission to informally question their client on the stand during the sentencing phase of his murder trial next week.
Sowell, 51, was convicted on Friday of killing 11 women whose decomposed remains were found in and around his home, and could face the death penalty after a jury found him guilty on 82 counts including murder, attempted murder, kidnapping and abuse of a corpse.
Police arrested Sowell in Cleveland in 2009 after discovering the bodies of the women when they executed a warrant for Sowell's arrest for rape and assault.
Many of his victims had histories of drug problems or were transients, and their disappearances were not always immediately reported to police. Sowell had claimed that bad smells in the area came from a nearby sausage factory.
Sowell sat quietly with his attorneys John Parker and Rufus Sims on Wednesday during a hearing to determine whether he should be considered a sexually violent predator, a move that would preclude a sentence that could later see him paroled.
Judge Dick Ambrose, in a brief bench trial without a jury, found that Sowell's conviction in the murder of 11 women and attempted murder of three others showed he was a proven repeat offender and violent predator.
As a result, the jury will be instructed that they may only consider sentences of life in prison without parole or the death penalty, but cannot consider terms of 25 or 30 years.
Sowell's attorneys requested and were granted the right to question Sowell on the stand during the sentencing phase, "in an effort to guide him through various subjects."
Assistant prosecutor Pinky Carr had argued against Sowell giving a "non-sworn statement" citing a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed informal questioning when a defendant could not prepare a statement due to mental issues.
Parker responded to Carr's insistence that Sowell was mentally competent enough to give a sworn-statement by saying that "doctor's reports will speak to the contrary."
The jury was excused for the week and was expected to hear from both prosecution and defense expert witnesses during the sentencing phase of the trial that begins on Monday.
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston)