Thursday, January 3, 2002

Death penalty
dropped in park killing

Prosecutors will seek a life
sentence for a ranger's alleged killer

By Debra Barayuga

The U.S. Justice Department will not seek the death penalty against Eugene Frederick Boyce III, a California drifter who was to go to trial later this month for the December 1999 slaying of a Big Island National Parks ranger.

The department notified the U.S. Attorney's Office here of the decision yesterday, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Sorenson.

"While we view the shooting death of a federal law enforcement officer to be of utmost concern, the defendant in this case is suffering from a mental health condition that, in the view of the (U.S.) attorney general, makes aggressive pursuit of the death penalty less appropriate under the particular facts of this case," Sorenson said.

However, "the U.S. Attorney's Office of the District of Hawaii intends to aggressively pursue prosecution of the first-degree murder charge for the shooting death of ranger Steve Makuakane-Jarrell against Mr. Boyce," Sorenson said.

Although Hawaii does not permit the death penalty, federal prosecutors can seek it for several crimes, including murder of a federal law enforcement official.

Boyce now faces a maximum penalty of life without the possibility of release if convicted.

Makuakane-Jarrell, 47, was investigating complaints of wild dogs at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park in Kona that apparently belonged to Boyce.

Boyce told federal authorities he shot Makuakane-Jarrell, a 15-year National Parks veteran, in self-defense during a struggle over the ranger's gun.

Boyce was to stand trial in U.S. District Court on Jan. 31, but the defense has indicated that his mental competency may need to be re-evaluated, Sorenson said.

Boyce's attorney, federal public defender Peter Wolff, could not be reached for comment. A hearing on the status of Boyce's case is scheduled for today.

A U.S. magistrate suspended all proceedings against Boyce in April 2000 after finding him unfit to go to trial and ordered him to undergo psychiatric treatment.

Boyce was later declared competent last January, and he pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.

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