Death penalty off table in triple-homicide case

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A state prosecutor says she is dropping plans to seek the death penalty against a Baton Rouge man in the 2011 shooting deaths of his former girlfriend two other women because doctors have determined he is mentally retarded.

Clarissa Cobbing’s mother tells The Advocate Courtney Williams deserves to be put to death for what he did on Sept. 10, 2011 — despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that bars the execution of mentally retarded persons.

“I really wanted him to get the death penalty. He should have,” Rose Cobbing said in a telephone interview. “Him being in jail for the rest of his life is not what I was looking for at all. Pretty much I have to accept it.”

Williams, 23, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the killing of Clarissa Cobbing, 19; Britney Lee, 18; and Josephine Lathers, 76, who was Lee’s grandmother, at a north Baton Rouge residence. A man was wounded in the shooting.

The women were shot to death inside a home shared by Lathers and Lee. Cobbing was staying at the home.

Baton Rouge police have said they consider the shootings acts of domestic violence.

Police documents show Clarissa Cobbing had called police at least three times to report incidents of Williams threatening her, beating her and kidnapping her toddler.

“He stalked my daughter for weeks and months,” said Rose Cobbing, who now cares for her daughter’s two children — a 2-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl. She said the children are “doing great.”

State District Judge Richard Anderson ruled earlier this year that a jury will be allowed to hear a series of 911 calls Clarissa Cobbing made less than three weeks before she was killed.

Williams does not have a trial date.

East Baton Rouge Parish Assistant District Attorney Dana Cummings, who previously notified the defense of her intention to seek the death penalty, said doctors chosen by the defense and prosecution reached the same conclusion — that Williams is mentally retarded.

Cummings said she had an ethical duty not to continue pursuing the death penalty against him.

“He’s mildly mentally retarded,” Cummings said “I don’t agree with the law, but that is the law.”

Baton Rouge Capital Conflict Office director David Price, one of Williams’ attorneys, said prosecutors made a “correct decision that’s mandated by law.”

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