Jury recommends life in prison for university shooter
CLEVELAND – A jury on Sunday recommended life in prison without parole for a former graduate student who killed another student and wounded two others during a seven-hour siege inside Case Western Reserve University’s business school.Biswanath Halder was convicted last month of killing Norman Wallace during the 2003 shooting spree and standoff.He could have received the death penalty, but the jury rejected the ultimate sentence during two days of deliberations. Judge Peggy Foley Jones, who must formally decide Halder’s fate, put off sentencing until Feb. 17.Psychologists had testified that Halder is sane but delusional, and his attorneys argued that the 65-year-old’s life should be spared because he is mentally ill. Defense attorneys acknowledged he was the gunman.”We’re just happy they (the jury) fell on the side of giving him life,” defense attorney Kevin Cafferkey said. “But he will serve the rest of life in prison and will never, ever leave a jail cell, and I feel comfortable with that.”Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason said Halder deserved the death penalty.”While we are disappointed that Mr. Halder will not receive the maximum punishment for his deadly siege, we hope that his victims and their families can take some comfort in the fact that Mr. Halder will never again see the light of day,” Mason said.Halder, originally from Calcutta, India, attacked the school armed with more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition because he believed a school computer lab employee hacked into his Web site devoted to helping fellow India natives form businesses, prosecutors said.Halder didn’t testify during the trial. But on Saturday, when the judge had started giving the jurors sentencing instructions, he stood up and said he wanted to speak.In a handwritten letter, Halder told the judge he had wanted to take the stand but his lawyers objected. Jones said he had given her the letter too late in the trial.”I wanted to talk to the media since June 2003,” Halder persisted. “The people who control me have prevented me from doing so.”His delusions included a belief that he would earn billions of dollars from his Web site and help change the world, his attorneys said.Halder was found competent before his trial, and the judge ruled his attorneys could not argue mental illness as a defense. However, they were allowed to make that argument during the sentencing phase.During the trial, jurors saw surveillance video showing Halder, wearing a military helmet and flak jacket, walk up a university hallway and shoot to death a student who was chatting with others.The video also showed people running to escape or to find cover in classrooms, offices and computer labs.Halder was captured by a police SWAT team on the fifth floor after a search that was complicated by the curving floors and walls of the building designed by architect Frank Gehry.Halder was convicted of 196 counts, including aggravated murder, attempted murder, aggravated burglary and kidnapping.