The state will not seek the death penalty against an Indiana teen accused of murdering a Utah Highway Patrol trooper.

Emery County Attorney David Blackwell told 7th District Judge Bruce Halliday on Tuesday that the state will ask only for a life prison sentence if Jason Scott Pearson is found guilty of killing UHP trooper Dennis "Dee" Lund.Blackwell said the state decided to drop the death-penalty prosecution because Pearson was only 18 when he allegedly committed the crime and because he has no serious criminal record.

"We spent quite a bit of time with the family and law enforcement officials and reviewed what we deemed was an unrealistic sentence in this case in light of the history of the imposition of the death penalty."

In other words, judges and juries are not likely to hand down death sentences to young first offenders, Blackwell said.

Lund's family as well as his colleagues in the state Department of Public Safety reluctantly gave their blessing to the decision.

"We definitely would have liked to have seen the death penalty imposed," said UHP Col. Richard Greenwood. "But we also realize the attitude and mood of society now. Given the individual's age and history, we know it's not likely the death penalty would be imposed."

Pearson, 19, is charged with shooting Lund during a high-speed chase on I-70 near Green River, Emery County, on June 16, 1993. The chase began after Pearson and his teenage friend, on a cross-country joy ride in a stolen vehicle, left a Crescent Junction, Grand County, service station without paying.

The friend, George Kennedy, then 16, was charged with capital murder, but the charge was reduced to first-degree felony murder in exchange for his guilty plea and his testimony against Pearson. Kennedy is serving five years to life in the Utah State Prison.

The trial for Pearson was scheduled to begin Jan. 3 but has been postponed until June 19 so that defense attorney Ken Brown can challenge the constitutionality of the statute by which Pearson was charged.

That statute, which now makes killing a police officer a capital crime regardless of whether the killing was intentional, was amended by the Utah Legislature after Timothy Singer, originally charged with murder, was found guilty only of manslaughter in the 1988 death of state corrections officer Fred House.

Singer shot House during the 13-day siege at the Singer-Swapp compound in Marion, Summit County. The jury ruled that Singer did not intend to kill House.

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In another matter, Halliday took under advisement a motion by the defense to strike testimony of state psychologist Stephen Golding, whose report challenges the possible defense that Pearson was suffering a "diminished mental capacity" when he shot Lund.

The report was based in part on letters the defense says were unconstitutionally intercepted by county jail officials.

Citing U.S. Supreme Court cases, Blackwell said the seizure of the letters was allowed because Pearson was suicidal and had discussed a jail break with other inmates.

Blackwell said the judge indicated that even if he found the seizure to be unconstitutional, he would not strike Golding's entire report but only those portions that relied on the letters.

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