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Originally published Monday, July 11, 2011 at 7:37 PM

Judge keeps death an option in inmate's trial

A judge has denied a defense attempt to remove the death penalty as a sentencing option if a Washington prison inmate is convicted in the January death of a corrections officer.

The Associated Press

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EVERETT, Wash. —

A judge has denied a defense attempt to remove the death penalty as a sentencing option if a Washington prison inmate is convicted in the January death of a corrections officer.

Lawyers for Byron Scherf tried Monday to get the death penalty off the table on a technicality, arguing that prosecutors jumped the gun by minutes in announcing they'd seek that sentence in the death of Officer Jayme Biendl.

Superior Court Judge Thomas Wynne sided with prosecutors in Everett and denied that motion. Scherf is charged with aggravated murder, accused of strangling Biendl in the Monroe Correctional Facility's chapel. The 52-year-old serial rapist already was serving a life sentence when Biendl was killed.

An aggravated murder conviction in Washington is punishable by either death or life in prison without parole.

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