MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) -- Bibb County District Attorney David Cooke announced Thursday he formally withdrew the notice of intent to seek the death penalty in the case of State of Georgia v. Stephen McDaniel.
McDaniel is accused of murdering and dismembering Mercer law graduate, Lauren Giddings in 2011.
At a news conference, Cooke said he recently met with the Giddings family. At the end of their meeting, Mr. and Mrs. Giddings asked to withdraw the death notice.
"Although they believe Mr. McDaniel deserves to be punished to the fullest extent of the law, they recognize that withdrawing the death notice will allow the case to proceed in a more timely fashion and it will also result in the state achieving justice for Lauren at a much sooner date," said Cooke.
Cooke did not want to go into the specifics of what the Giddings family said during the meeting, but said it is important to know this is what they wanted and considered it very carefully.
"While the family of a murder victim does not decide what action our office will take, I do consider their feelings in deciding how to proceed. After careful consideration of their request and consulting with experts in the field, I formally withdrew the death penalty today," Cooke said.
The decision to no longer seek the death penalty for McDaniel will dramatically decrease the amount of time it takes to get to trial. Cooke said two recent Bibb County death penalty cases came to trial 6 to 7 years after the murder, and a non-death penalty case should take about 1.5 years.
McDaniel's attorney Franklin Hogue said, "It's a huge relief and I'm very pleased, I never did think it should have been a death penalty case and I was intending with the motions we were preparing to fight the death penalty vigorously and now I get to turn my attention exclusively to the guilt/innocence issues of the case."
For the defense, that means the motions dealing with the death penalty can now be thrown out and McDaniel's attorneys can focus on other issues.
Kaitlyn Wheeler, Giddings' sister said, "For or against the death penalty, we don't all have the same beliefs, but we can all come to the agreement on what's best for this case despite the belief and we know that McDaniel did this and we have the evidence to prove it so we just want this to come to a close."
Wheeler said it was her mother Karen Giddings who initially started the conversation about dropping the death penalty back in 2011. According to Wheeler, Karen is against the death penalty due to "spiritual reasons." The family decided earlier this year to request to withdraw the death notice.