In the end, the jurors felt they had no choice but to sentence Sammantha Allen to death for the brutal 2011 murder of her 10-year-old cousin, Ame Deal.
The Phoenix woman had been on trial in Maricopa County Superior Court since May, one of four family members charged with disciplining the girl by forcing her to do exercise in sweltering July heat and then locking her in a 31-inch-long footlocker overnight.
That box was padlocked shut and Ame suffocated inside of it in the Phoenix home, authorities say.
“The pictures of the victim stayed in our minds,” said juror Ann Ospeth. “I think the thing for us was the victim and all the things her life entailed.”
It demanded a death penalty, the jurors agreed.
“We were following what the law stated,” said juror Amanda Heath.
And indeed the jurors felt that Allen should be punished to the max.
They also found aggravating factors for the four underlying child-abuse counts against Allen, which allowed the judge to impose harsher sentences for those charges.
Superior Court Judge Teresa Sanders sentenced Allen to an additional four consecutive sentences totaling 76 years for those crimes. She was given credit for more than 2,000 days she has already spent in custody.
Allen was found guilty June 26. Then the jury deliberated for a week over whether there were mitigating factors that would allow Allen to avoid the death penalty and instead be sentenced to life in prison.
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SOURCE: USA Today; The Arizona Republic, Michael Kiefer and Sean Na