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November 21, 2011 at 12:10 PM

Death penalty won't be sought in slayings of toddler, man

The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has decided not to seek the death penalty against a physician who is accused of killing his partner and their 2-year-old son in August.

Dr. Louis Chen has been charged with two counts of aggravated first-degree murder in connection with the killings of Eric Cooper, 29, and the couple’s son, Cooper Chen, 2. The charge is punishable by life in prison or the death penalty.

According to a news release from the prosecutor’s office:

The state’s capital punishment statute requires the Prosecuting Attorney to make a decision about whether or not the option of the death penalty should be presented to a future jury. In making this decision, the Prosecuting Attorney must consider any and all relevant mitigating factors that would necessitate not seeking the death penalty.

Under the law, a capital case jury is asked the following question once they have rendered a verdict of guilty in the crime charged: “Having in mind the crime of which the defendant has been found guilty, are you convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that there are not sufficient mitigating circumstances to merit leniency?” In order to return an affirmative answer to the question posed by this subsection, the jury must so find unanimously.

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg decided that the case is “not appropriate” for the death penalty under the statute, the news release says.

Although it’s not mentioned in the news release, Chen’s mental state at the time of the slayings may have figured in the decision. Chen is scheduled for a mental evaluation.

A spokesman says the prosecutor’s office would not elaborate beyond the news release.

Chen, 39, was to scheduled begin work at Virginia Mason Medical Center on Aug. 15. After he failed to appear for an orientation on Aug. 11, a hospital representative went to Chen’s penthouse apartment on First Hill. She found Chen nude, semiconscious and covered in dried blood, according to charging documents.

Seattle police were called and found the bodies of Cooper and Cooper Chen, who had been killed the day before, sometime on Aug. 10, the King County Medical Examiner’s Office said.

Prosecutors allege that Chen stabbed Eric Cooper “well over” 100 times. The couple’s son suffered “numerous cuts to his neck,” according to charging documents.

In the days and weeks before that, Eric Cooper had complained that an alcohol-fueled Chen became increasingly agitated, hostile and paranoid about their plans to end the relationship, according to a friend of the slain man.

Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: homicide, King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, Seattle

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