NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — The man convicted of killing his family faces the ultimate punishment — the death penalty. But how long will it take before he knows his fate?
Thursday WAVY.com broke the news about the Newport News jury’s verdict against John Ragin: guilty of second degree murder for killing his wife, and guilty of capital murder for stabbing her three children to death. But now the jury has a choice to make about Ragin’s future — life or death.
When a jury recommends execution for a capital murder conviction, that doesn’t meant the sentence gets carried out right away. That was the case of DC sniper John Allen Muhammad, who was arrested in 2002 for killing 10 people and injuring three others. He was convicted of capital murder, then executed seven years later in 2009 and after a jury recommended the death penalty.
10 On Your Side turned to Attorney Andy Protogyrou who has represented clients on death row in the past to ask about the death sentence and its implications for a defendant.
“From there, there is a Virginia Supreme Court appeal. There’s also a habeus corpus proceeding that examines everybody including the judge, the prosecutor, the defense attorneys, to make sure that everybody functioned appropriately,” Protogyrou said. “Then the same track follows along in the federal court.”
Protogyrou said the process then takes years to wind its way through the court system.
On Monday, the jury in the John Ragin case began to hear testimony related to punishment. For the first time, they learned Ragin was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in South Carolina. That was in 1991 for an incident during which he killed a friend during a fight involving a shotgun.
That set the stage for a day of emotional testimony from friends, family and teachers of the victims. The shock, hurt and pain of the killings was evident from just about every witness called to the stand.
John and Crystal Ragin had a son together who is in the care of relatives out of state. Crysal’s sister, Shelby, was the most compelling witness of the day, who said she passed out when she was told her sister and the kids were dead. She told the court her older sister was like a mother figure to her.
Closing arguments in this sentencing phase are now scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. After that, the jury is expected to make its life or death sentence recommendation.
You can count on WAVY.com to keep you up to date on any developments in the case.