State to seek death penalty in prisoner killing

2013-08-14T15:10:00Z 2013-08-15T00:15:11Z State to seek death penalty in prisoner killingBy PAT HANSEN The Montana Standard The Billings Gazette
August 14, 2013 3:10 pm  • 

Clyde Ervin Cosner, accused of fatally cutting a fellow inmate's throat last year, pleaded not guilty in Deer Lodge district court Tuesday.

A prosecutor told the court the state will seek the death penalty in the deliberate homicide charge.

Cosner, 38, is accused of killing Danny Lee Hartford on Oct. 7, 2012, while both were inmates at the Montana State Prison. Court records say Cosner used a prisoner-made weapon in the homicide.

Assistant Attorney General Joel Thompson, a special deputy Powell County attorney, told the court the state plans to seek the death penalty because of aggravating circumstances — that the offense was committed by an offender while in official detention, and was committed by an offender who had previously been convicted of another deliberate homicide. Cosner was sentenced to 40 years in prison on Jan. 9, 2009, for deliberate homicide in Toole County.

If convicted of killing Hartford, Cosner could be sentenced to a minimum of life in prison without parole, with an additional two to 10 consecutive years for the use of a weapon.

Cosner was remanded back to custody at the prison pending further proceedings. A trial date was set for October 2014.

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