Death penalty sought for US arsonist

March 19th, 2009 - 1:32 am ICT by IANS  

Los Angeles, March 18 (DPA) An arsonist, who set a massive wildfire in southern California in 2006 that killed five firefighters, is facing the death penalty after being convicted for murder and arson, it was reported Wednesday.
Raymond Lee Oyler, 38, was convicted on five counts of murder, 20 counts of arson and 17 counts of using an incendiary device, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The prosecutor said Oyler coldheartedly killed the five firefighters in the 2006 Esperanza fire, which he set using a device made with matchsticks and a cigarette.

“By his actions, he decided that these men would have the flesh burned from their bodies, have their lives ripped away from them,” said Michael Hestrin, Riverside County’s deputy district attorney.

“What could possibly be more brutal than what Raymond Oyler did to these men?”

Hestrin said that although Oyler may not have intended to commit murder he knew the destructive power of the numerous fires he set.

“He didn’t plan and premeditate the deaths of these men, but he planned the fire and he knew what it could do,” Hestrin said. “This is not reckless. Reckless is flicking a cigarette out of the window on a dry day. This is murder.”

Defence attorney Thomas Eckhardt admitted that his client was a murderer and an arsonist who repeatedly set fires, but said “the victims are gone and they are not coming back no matter what you do”.

The 12-member jury convicted Oyler earlier this month and was weighing its sentencing decision Wednesday. A unanimous decision is required to impose the death penalty.

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