It’s been eight months since a jury found Christopher Strawn guilty of the 2015 murder of Brandon Cook. This Wednesday, Strawn will be sentenced.
Sentencing was initially scheduled to take place in February, but has been pushed back multiple times due to Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg’s instruction to have a psychological evaluation done of Strawn.
In a court order dated Feb. 8, Pallenberg wrote that the psychological evaluation needed to be done for two reasons. First, that Strawn had reported during a different prison stay 10 years ago that he was being treated for a mental health disorder. Secondly, Pallenberg wrote, there was not a clear motive in the 2015 murder, which makes it difficult to determine how much of a danger Strawn could pose the community in the future.
Juneau Dr. John Kesselring performed the psychological evaluation recently, according to court records, and Strawn’s sentencing hearing will be 8:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Juneau Courthouse.
According to Assistant District Attorney Amy Paige’s sentencing memorandum, she is requesting a total sentence of 84 years for the 34-year-old Strawn. She proposed that Strawn serve 80 years for the charge of first-degree murder with an additional four years for the charge of third-degree assault. The assault charge, Paige wrote, stems from Strawn putting the sole witness in the case, Tiffany Johnson, in fear for her life.
Paige repeatedly stated in the sentencing memorandum that one major reason for demanding a harsh sentence for Strawn is that he has not shown remorse or a desire to rehabilitate. She pointed to an instance in 2008 when Strawn was serving time for a vehicle theft conviction and turned down a chance at probation and decided to serve the remainder of his sentence in prison.
This decision, Paige wrote, is one example of Strawn not wanting to commit to rehabilitation. She also pointed out that throughout the trial and even after his conviction, Strawn has not admitted guilt.
“If accepting responsibility is the first step in rehabilitating oneself, the defendant has staunchly refused to do so, making his prospects for rehabilitation guarded at best,” Paige wrote.
Strawn represented himself in the trial, which took place in October. He maintained his innocence, arguing that he had no reason to kill Cook and claiming that he was asleep at home when the murder took place. Johnson’s testimony directly contradicted that, as she recounted that night and stated she was in the room as Strawn shot and killed Cook.
Cook, who was 30 at the time of his death on Oct. 20, 2015, worked at Juneau’s Safeway grocery store and at the Alaska Airlines ramp at the Juneau International Airport. He had lived in Juneau for nearly 10 years after moving up from Oklahoma to be with his girlfriend at the time.
Cook’s family is expected to be at the sentencing Wednesday, planning on flying up from their home in Wewoka, Oklahoma.
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.