SHARECOMMENTMORE

by Randall Savage, 13WMAZ.com

STORY HIGHLIGHTS:

- Lillian Walker faces murder charges but will not face the death penalty, says DA David Cooke.

- The Fort Valley woman is accused of killing her aunt and cousin in July 2009.

- Cooke says the victims' family are not proponents of the death penalty and wanted it off the table.

A Fort Valley woman won't face the death penalty in the alleged stabbing deaths of her aunt and cousin.

Lillian Walker still faces murder charges in the killings of 85-year-old Lillian Graves and 65-year-old Agnes Stewart, District Attorney David Cooke said Wednesday.

Walker allegedly stabbed the two women to death in July 2009 at their home at 101 Daniel Drive in Fort Valley.

Cooke said he's notified court officials that he wouldn't seek the death penalty in the case. He reached that conslusionafter discussing the situation with family members of the victims, Cooke said.

"It's my understanding that they had been telling the DA's office that they are not proponents of the death penalty," Cooke said. "What they really want is the case to go to trial."

In exchange for removing the death penalty, Cooke said Walker agreed to accept the possible sentence of life without parole if she's convicted of the murders.

He said she also agreed to let the trial judge, not a jury decide her guilt or innocence.

"Entering the agreement that we did, the defendant has now asked for a bench trial," Cooke said. "The trial will be in August or October of this year before a judge, not a jury, and so the family is getting the justice that they have been asking for."

There has been very little movement in a casewhich hasbeen pending four years, he said.

While some of the victims family members objected to the death penalty, Cooke said that wasn't their primary reason for getting it removed.

"They wanted justice and they wanted it soon," Cooke said. "You have to understand that they have been waiting four years for a trial and if we continued on the track we were on, there's no telling when we would have gone to trial."

Since taking office in January, the Walker case marks the second time that Cooke has removed the death sentence from a pending murder case.

He removed it last month in the Stephen McDaniels case. McDaniels, a Mercer Law School graduate, is accused of murdering and dismembering the body of Lauren Giddings, also a Mercer law graduate.

When he took that action, Cooke said the Giddens family asked him to remove the death penalty from the case.

Cooke said he doesn't oppose the death penalty and would use it when he thinks it appropriate. He said the wishes of a victim's family members would be considered when making those decisions.

Members of the Graves and Stewart couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday.

SHARECOMMENTMORE