Man accused of killing estranged wife and mother-in-law will not face the death penalty

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A man accused of killing his estranged wife and mother-in-law will not face the death penalty.

Prosecutors say they will instead seek life without the possibility of parole for Dave McCann.

McCann faced a judge Thursday to be arraigned again for the murder of his estranged wife Tierney and her mother Judith Cooper.

Cameras weren't allowed in court when his attorney Scott Baly said he has concerns about what could be an "undiagnosed and unmedicated mental disorder."

The judge ruled he should be interviewed to determine if he is sane or needs treatment. Legal analyst Ralph Torres said the evaluation will stop the proceedings but may be necessary.

"We're not experts, so we just tell the judge hey judge, something's going on here, you better check him out," said Torres.

McCann didn't make any comments out of turn Thursday but during the preliminary hearing, he did try to have Baly removed from the case. That judge denied his request.

During the preliminary hearing, Clovis Police officers say the defendant killed in cold blood and had a smile on his face when he first killed his wife then made her mother watch the death of her daughter.

The double murder a special circumstance made him eligible to receive the death penalty. But prosecutors decided after weighing all the options they would instead seek life without the possibility of parole.

Torres says that's not uncommon, especially considering McCann has no prior criminal history.

"In most cases, even when they can, they don't seek it. It's expensive, logistically you know we're just talking about the logistics of the whole thing- very expensive and you may never get death," said Torres.

The victim's family members declined to comment after the hearing but were visibly upset by the mental competency request. They do not believe McCann has any disorder.

The evaluation and doctor's report will temporarily suspend the criminal case- but Torres says usually it only delays it.

McCann is set to return to court in Mid November. The judge is hoping the evaluation will be complete at that time.
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