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U.S. won’t seek death for man accused of killing Indiana detective

Hundreds of police officers attended Terre Haute detective Greg Ferency's funeral last summer.
Adam Pinsker, WFIU/WTIU News
Hundreds of police officers attended Terre Haute detective Greg Ferency's funeral last summer.

Federal prosecutors said Monday they would not pursue the death penalty against a man accused of killing an Indiana police officer last summer.

Zachary A. Myers, the U.S. attorney the Southern District of Indiana, informed a federal judge that his office wouldn’t seek death for Shane Meehan.

But Meehan still faces a murder charge in the fatal shooting of detective and federal task force agent Greg Ferency outside an F.B.I. field office last summer.

The chief federal defender in Indianapolis called the decision correct, pointing to Meehan’s history of mental illness and brain damage.

“The government would have had a very difficult time trying to convince 12 jurors to order his execution in the face of that history,” Monica Foster wrote in an email Monday. “This was the correct, fiscally responsible decision.”

Foster added that the tragedy to both families “cannot be overstated.”

Meehan’s trial is set to begin later this month. He’s charged with murder of a federal official as well as arson and weapon offenses.

Attorneys say he suffers from post-concussion syndrome, a traumatic brain injury, a seizure disorder, Parkinson’s disease, and chronic pain syndrome.

And they say he was placed on medical leave from his position at a federal prison in Terre Haute before the attack.

The facility houses the nation’s only federal execution chamber — where Meehan might have ended up if prosecutors had pursued the penalty.

The decision not to pursue death follows similar moves by federal prosecutors across the country since President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

U.S. attorneys haven’t filed requests to seek capital punishment under Attorney General Merrick Garland; his justice department has also withdrawn at least a half dozen such requests made during under the previous administration.

Last summer, Garland declared a moratorium on carrying out death sentences after his predecessor, former Attorney General Bill Barr, swiftly executed 13 people on federal death row in the final months of the Trump administration.

During his career in the U.S. Senate, Biden backed harsh penalties and helped pass legislation that massively expanded the federal death penalty. He reversed support for the punishment during the 2020 presidential campaign.

Biden indicated that he would seek to end capital punishment at the federal level after taking office but hasn’t followed through, while his justice department has continued to defend several high-profile death sentences in court.

Cathy Knapp contributed to this report.

John, News Editor for LPM, is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Email John at jboyle@lpm.org.

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