A Navy prosecutor is expected to ask a military panel today to sentence a black sailor from Suitland to death for what prosecutors have called the racially motivated slaying of a white officer.
Summations and deliberations were scheduled to begin in Newport, R.I., in the punishment phase of a court-martial for Petty Officer 3rd Class Mitchell Garraway, 21, who has been convicted of the premeditated stabbing death of Lt. James Sterner, a former Prince William County teacher.
The eight-member military panel would have to return a unanimous verdict to impose the death penalty for Garraway, who could become the first Navy serviceman executed since 1849. If jurors decide to spare Garraway's life, he would be given the minimum sentence of life imprisonment.
Prosecutor Lt. Daniel O'Toole has not announced what sentence he will recommend to the panel, but Navy officials have said O'Toole will ask for the death sentence.
The panel will be instructed on military law by Navy judge Cmdr. John Studer, who adjourned the sentencing Friday to decide the proper way to charge the panel members on whether the government must prove Sterner was murdered during the "execution of office."
Garraway confessed to killing Sterner, 35, June 16 aboard the frigate USS Miller while off Bermuda, but the government rejected his plea and instead put him before a court-martial Jan. 30 on the more serious charge of premeditated murder. Garraway apologized to the victim's family last week, but told panel members that he "just snapped" when he stabbed Sterner twice in the back in a passageway.