McCluskey murder trial begins

Posted at: 08/18/2013 5:39 PM
Updated at: 08/19/2013 1:30 PM
By: Jeffery Gordon and Elizabeth Reed,

ALBUQUERQUE -- Opening statements in the murder trial against a prison escapee accused of killing a couple in New Mexico began Monday morning.

John McCluskey is accused of killing Gary and Linda Haas in 2010 while traveling through New Mexico.

This morning, prosecutors described how McClusky and two other inmates planned an escape from prison. They were successful, but the day after they escaped, prosecutors say McCluskey decided they needed a trailer.

The trio found the couple at a travel center as they were on their way to a camping trip from Oklahoma. Prosecutors say the inmates forced the couple to drive them around.

The state is trying to prove McCluskey planned to kill the couple because he thought they would tip off police.

But McCluskey's lawyers announced earlier this year they plan to use a mental defense. In May, they filed a motion to get DNA evidence thrown out in the case.

A judge ruled to throw out some of the evidence, but not all. Just last month, a judge ruled evidence from an incident in the Arizona prison from where McCluskey escaped could not be used in the trial. In that instance, McClusky was accused of slashing another inmate's throat in the prison.

McCluskey faces federal carjacking and murder charges in the deaths of Gary and Linda Haas. If convicted, he could get the death penalty.

The trial is expected to last four months in federal court in Albuquerque.