Washington County District Attorney Jason Walsh will seek the death penalty for a Peters Township father accused of killing his 11-week-old son earlier this year.
Walsh filed a notice of aggravating circumstances in the Court of Common Pleas stating that Jordan Neil Clarke, 36, deserves capital punishment for the death of Sawyer Clarke, who authorities say had signs of being violently shaken.
Walsh argued there were three “aggravating circumstances” that permitted him to seek a death sentence: Clarke killed Sawyer in perpetration of a felony, the act was committed by means of torture, and the child was younger than 12 years of age.
Police were called to Clarke’s home at 148 Pleasantview Drive on May 23. Clarke claimed he had been carrying Sawyer in the basement and tripped on a grocery bag, causing him to fall partially on to a couch and then on to his son. Sawyer died the following day at UPMC Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh.
At Clarke’s preliminary hearing, a pediatrician testified that Sawyer had brain hemorrhaging behind his eyes, a torn retina in one eye and bleeding in both eyes. Clarke’s attorney Noah Geary argued that the death was accidental and that there was no evidence an intentional act had been committed.
While Clarke was to be formally arraigned on charges of homicide, child endangerment and aggravated assault Tuesday morning, Geary is not a death penalty-certified attorney, according to Walsh. The arraignment was continued until Oct. 3.
A call to Geary’s office was not returned by the newspaper’s deadline Tuesday.
Gov. Tom Wolf placed a moratorium on the death penalty in February 2015. Pennsylvania has not executed an inmate since 1999.
Clarke is being held without bond in the Washington County jail.