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Attorney: Take death penalty off table in N. Idaho stabbing death of cab driver

UPDATED: Sat., Oct. 6, 2018, 3:03 p.m.

SANDPOINT – A man charged with murder in northern Idaho is too young to face the death penalty, his lawyer says.

Attorney R. Keith Roark filed a motion Thursday in 1st District Court on behalf of Jacob Coleman, 20, the Bonner County Daily Bee reported.

Coleman was 19 when authorities say he stabbed to death 22-year-old cab driver Gagandeep Singh of Spokane in Kootenai in August 2017. Singh had driven him to Idaho after picking him up at the Spokane International Airport. Coleman has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.

Roark contends the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution eliminates the death penalty for Coleman or a life sentence without parole. The Eighth Amendment prohibits governments from imposing cruel and unusual punishments.

Roark argues that research shows human brains aren’t fully developed until at least the age of 21. He said 23 states don’t execute offenders who are under that age.

“The age of 18 is not, and has never been, a true age of maturity and adulthood,” Roark said in the 91-page motion. “It was chosen for expedience. There is no principled reason to treat those who are still immature as if they are fully developed adults.”

Law enforcement officials said Coleman flew from Seattle to Spokane to start a new semester at Gonzaga University.

The school said a person matching Coleman’s description approached housing officials on campus but was not enrolled as a student and was never assigned campus housing.

Police said Coleman called a cab and Singh picked him up. Authorities said Coleman told police he became homicidal and bought a knife during a stop at a store.

Singh stopped in Kootenai when it became clear Coleman didn’t have a destination. Police said Coleman then stabbed Singh, who died at the scene.

Coleman is being held at the Bonner County Jail. His trial is set for spring.

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