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Death penalty sought for murder suspect

The Park County Attorney’s Office contends that a Cody man should be put to death in connection with the February murder of his wife.

Park County Attorney Bryan Skoric filed notice on May 23 that his office plans to seek the death penalty in its first-degree murder case against 29-year-old Myron J. Friday.

Friday’s wife, Julie J. Friday, 44, was brutally murdered Feb. 26, and Park County prosecutors allege it was Myron Friday who killed her. Skoric said in last week’s filing that he’s seeking the death penalty because the killing was “especially atrocious or cruel” and that Friday is dangerous.

Friday has pleaded not guilty to the charge. A trial date has not been set yet.

As some of the evidence against Friday, police have said they found his cell phone and bloody shoe prints that appear to match his shoes near Julie Friday’s body. Around the same time the woman’s body was found and reported to police, Friday reportedly arrived at a friend’s house bleeding from his face and looking for a ride, police have said.

After a day-long search, Friday was arrested on the evening of Feb. 27 at a Cody resident’s home. He’s been held in the Park County Detention Center since then with bail set at $1 million.

To convict a defendant of first-degree murder, the state must show beyond a reasonable doubt that the person committed the killing and did so “purposely and with premeditated malice.”

At a preliminary hearing, Deputy Park County Attorney Tim Blatt cited as evidence of premeditation a family member’s report that Friday had threatened to kill his wife shortly before the murder. Friday’s court-appointed attorney, Nick Beduhn, noted those alleged threats were never reported to police and argued the evidence suggested the killing was done in rage, not with premeditation.

Beduhn has declined to comment on what defense Friday will offer in the case, and he declined to comment last week on the notice that prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

To receive the death penalty, a jury must not only find that the defendant committed first-degree murder, but it also must find that at least one aggravating circumstance was present during the murder.

Skoric listed two of the aggravating circumstances outlined under state law as applicable to the case: first, “that the murder was especially atrocious or cruel, being unnecessarily torturous” to Julie Friday, and second, that Myron Friday “poses a substantial and continuing threat of future dangerousness or is likely to commit continued acts of criminal violence.”

The Park County Attorney’s Office would not comment on its reasoning for seeking the death penalty or elaborate on why those aggravating circumstances are being alleged.

Court records indicate that Julie Friday suffered multiple, deep stab wounds to her upper body, and that some on her arms and hands appear to have been inflicted while she was trying to defend herself. A Billings doctor who conducted the autopsy said it appeared Julie Friday was attacked with a Philips screwdriver, and one with blood in its grooves was found next to her body, court records say.

Separate court records indicate that Myron Friday has committed misdemeanor crimes in the past, including two convictions for domestic battery several years ago. He also was convicted of criminal trespassing and interfering with police in connection with two altercations with Julie Friday last year, court records say.

Even if a jury finds a defendant guilty of first-degree murder and finds an aggravating circumstance was present, that only makes the defendant eligible for the death penalty. The jury then still would need to determine whether the penalty is appropriate.

Capital punishment is rare in Wyoming.

In the last 46 years, only one man, Mark Hopkinson, has been executed in the state, and only one man, Dale W. Eaton, currently is on death row.

The case against Friday is the second capital case currently pending in Wyoming.

Laramie County prosecutors say they will seek the execution of a Cheyenne man, Nathaniel Castellanos, in connection with the August 2011 murder of two adults.

Platte County prosecutors are mulling whether to seek the death penalty in a case against Wheatland resident Everett Conant III, who has been charged with killing four family members.

Skoric said he did not know if a Park County prosecutor ever has sought the death penalty before; Clerk of District Court Joyce Boyer said it hasn’t happened in her 20 years in the clerk’s office.

Although a trial date has yet to be set, Boyer began working on preparations for Friday’s trial immediately after Skoric filed the notice of intent to seek the death penalty.

“We’re all pretty much focused on it, even though we don’t have any details right yet,” Boyer said last week, noting added requirements and precautions that must be taken for the jury and proceedings in a capital case.

A trial generally must be held within 180 days of a defendant’s arraignment. That would mean that, without a request for a delay, Friday would need to be put on trial no later than Sept. 21.

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