Dallas County DA reverses plan to seek death penalty against Zoe Hastings’ alleged killer

This breaking news story will be updated.

The Dallas County District Attorney’s office reversed its decision to seek the death penalty for a man accused in the murder of Zoe Hastings, saying the alleged killer has an intellectual disability.

The capital murder case against 36-year-old Antonio Cochran was set for trial last month but was delayed until January. If convicted, Cochran would receive an automatic life sentence.

Antonio Cochran has been charged with capital murder in the death of Zoe Hastings.

Cochran is accused of kidnapping the 18-year-old woman in 2015 while she was at a Lake Highlands pharmacy to return a rental movie. She was stabbed and left for dead by a creek.

His attorneys alleged Cochran was intellectually disabled and prosecutors requested to evaluate him. That evaluation has shown Cochran has an intellectual disability.

It is against the law to execute a person with an intellectual disability.

"However, we remain committed to seeking justice on behalf of Zoe Hastings and her family," said District Attorney Faith Johnson in a statement released late Friday explaining the decision.

Hastings’ slaying sent her neighborhood in a panic during the two-week hunt for her killer.

After Cochran was arrested, police called him a "sexual predator." He was acquitted of a rape charge in 2015 in Texarkana before he moved to Dallas. He has not been charged with a sex crime in Hastings’ slaying, but DNA found at the scene was matched to him.

The death penalty case against Cochran was the first filed since Johnson took office in January. The office has also filed to seek the death penalty against Kristopher Love, the alleged hitman in the 2015 slaying of Kendra Hatcher in an Uptown parking garage.

Johnson has said the decision to seek the death penalty is based on the severity of the crime, what the victim’s family wants and the criminal background of the accused.

"Our office only seeks the death penalty in the most heinous and serious of crimes," Johnson previously told The Dallas Morning News.

Jury selection in the Cochran case began in August and took more than two months. Jurors in death penalty cases are individually questioned.

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