CROSSVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Last September, Jacob Bennett told the judge he wanted to plead guilty at the beginning of his arraignment, before he'd consulted with an attorney. The big issue on Wednesday was whether it was an official plea and if it could keep the state from seeking the death penalty against Bennett.
According to the law, the state must file notice of its intent to seek the death penalty 30 days before trial. The State hadn't given its notice when Bennett said he wanted to plead guilty during his initial appearance.
"The idea that the defense put forward was that if he had entered the plea, by statute, he would be guilty of the first degree murder and it would keep us, by law, from filing the enhanced punishment," said Deputy District Attorney Gary McKenzie.
The judge ruled that since the arraignment was stopped, and because Bennett hadn't been advised of his rights, it wasn't an official plea and the state can seek the death penalty.
Bennett and Brittany Moser are accused of killing Ricki Jacobsen, Steven Presley, Domonic Davis and Jonathan Lajeunesse during a drug deal gone bad on Renegade Mountain last September.
The judge granted Bennett's motion to remain in jail during additional motions hearings.
Brittany Moser's attorneys asked the judge to have her tried separately from Bennett. The judge said he'll take up that issue at a later time.
The next court date in the case is set for August 13.
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