Man accused of killing Sullivan Co. couple back in court, defense team argues against death penalty

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CARTER COUNTY, TN (WJHL) Defense attorneys for a man charged in the double murders of a Sullivan County couple filed several motions to stop the case from possibly resulting in the death penalty.Eric Azotea, 44, is accused of murdering Arthur “Art” Gibson, Jr. and Amber Terrell in January 2015, then dismembering and burning their bodies to cover up the crime.The bodies were found stuffed in a crawl space at 135 Woodland Drive, which is a Johnson City address.Tuesday, January 19th defense lawyers argued 37 motions on Azotea’s behalf, including multiple concerning the death penalty.

“We’ve argued that the Tennessee Capital statute is unconstitutional as it is written,” said Azotea’s attorney, Steven Finney.District Attorney General Tony Clark said the state stands behind their decision to seek the death penalty.“From a prosecution standpoint, if a first degree murder case warrants the death penalty, and those factors exist…which we feel like they it do in this case, then we seek the death penalty,” Clark said.The defense also asked that Azotea be removed from the Carter County Detention Center. They said he is currently in solitary confinement, and is not allowed blankets to sleep.“He’s not convicted of anything yet, and we don’t know that he will be,” said Finney. “They have him locked up 23 hours a day. How are we supposed to work with someone like that, who can’t have his facilities because he has not been treated humanely?”The judge denied the motion that Azotea be removed from the Carter County Detention Center.Azotea is also facing charges of attempted escape, after he was accused to trying to escape from jail on Friday, January 15th.Police say he used an improvised tool to dig out a cinderblock in his cell in order to gain access to the chase area, and he intended to use that same tool to dig through the exterior wall. Police caught him a short time later.He will appear in Carter County criminal court again on April 13th, and his trial is set for January 2017.Copyright WJHL 2016. All rights reserved.

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