HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Stephen Marc Stone’s sentencing hearing for the murders of his wife and young son will not be held Thursday. It’s been rescheduled for April 5.
It’s a short delay in a case marked by years of wrangling over Stone’s mental state.
Stone will either be sentenced to the death penalty or life in prison without parole for the February 2013 murders of his wife Krista Stone and their 7-year-old son, Zachary. They were killed at the family’s home on Chicamauga Trail in South Huntsville.
The sentencing decision will be up to Madison County Circuit Judge Donna Pate. Stone was convicted of capital murder last month, but prosecutors failed to convince the jury to recommend a death sentence.
Three of the 12 jurors voted against the death penalty, favoring life in prison without parole. It requires 10 jurors to recommend a death sentence in Alabama.
But, because the Stone case began in 2013 – four years before Alabama ended the practice of giving judges the last word in capital murder sentencing – Pate can overrule the jury verdict and give Stone the death penalty.
The case faced long delays despite Stone’s confessing to the crime the day after it happened. He was declared mentally incompetent to stand trial at one point, but after months of treatment, was later found able to understand the case against him and capable of assisting in his own defense.
Stone’s behavior in court during early hearings was bizarre, includes periods where he would laugh uproariously, and silently, while no one was talking to him.
His attorneys Brian Clark and Larry Marsili argued at his trial that Stone was not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. They introduced testimony from three doctors that he suffered from delusions and paranoid schizophrenia.
But Madison County District Attorney Rob Broussard and the office’s chief trial attorney Tim Gann hammered at those claims, arguing Stone had never been diagnosed with any mental illness. The prosecution maintained Stone was unhappy with his family life and he admitted he felt free after he killed his son.
The details of the case -- Stone strangled his wife and strangled and drowned his son -- and the autopsy photos of the child still in his pajama pants bottoms, moved some jurors to tears
Jurors deliberated for about two hours before convicting Stone on Feb. 5. The next day the jury heard evidence arguing for and against the death penalty, but failed to reach the 10-vote threshold to recommend a death sentence.
Krista Stone’s family said they were relieved by the guilty verdict.