EVERETT, Wash. -- The same jury that convicted a Monroe Reformatory inmate of aggravated murder for strangling corrections officer Jayme Biendl finished listening to arguments Tuesday in the penalty stage of the trial and were deliberating whether Byron Scherf will be executed.
Snohomish County jurors were told during the trial that the convicted rapist was already serving a sentence of life without parole in 2011 when he strangled Biendl in the prison chapel at the Monroe Correctional Complex.
Now the jury will have to decide whether there are mitigating factors to spare the 54-year-old's life.
Scherf is a complex and contradictory killer. His case is as confounding as the man himself. Scherf spent decades in prison trying to better himself through college courses, anger management programs and Bible study, only to murder corrections Biendl.
In closing arguments Tuesday, deputy prosecutor Paul Stern queried, “That's what we get for all of this time and study? Killing a 34-year-old woman in the sanctuary?”
Jurors must decide whether Scherf deserves leniency for Biendl's murder, despite his past as a serial rapist. Scherf is already serving life without parole for life lifetime pocked with violent sexual deviancy.
His attorneys, however, argue he is not evil, and that the Department of Corrections deserves at least some blame for Biendl's death because of mistakes made the night of her murder.
“The DOC is responsible for not protecting Jayme Biendl,” said Karen Halverson. “That was their job. They didn't do that. It was something that could've been prevented.”
The defense reminded jurors that sparing Scherf's life would really leave him with no life at all under maximum security inside prison walls.
“They spend 23 hours a day in the Intensive Management Unit. They eat their meals in their cell. They get a shower every other day. When they're out of their cell, they're in restrains and they're in a small area. There is minimal human contact," said Halverson.
Paul Stern used Scherf's own confession to police shortly after the murder, in which he asked to be executed, to convince jurors to give him what they say he deserves.
“He said, ‘if you take a life you give a life.’ The detective asked, ‘you're okay with that?’ He answered, ‘yeah.’”
The jury will reconvene Wednesday morning to resume deliberations.