Pleau's Lawyers Ask Judge To Amend Indictment To Skirt Death Penalty

Supreme Court to decide whether to hear Chafee's challenge of federal custody over accused murderer on Friday.


Lawyers for accused murderer Jason Pleau are asking US District Court Judge William Smith to dismiss elements of the indictment against him to eliminate the possibility of a death sentence.

Pleau has been the subject of a struggle between federal authorities and Gov. Lincoln Chafee for nearly a year because he could face the death penalty in federal court. He is charged with the murder of David Main during a night deposit robbery at Citizen's Bank in 2010.

In August, Gov. Lincoln Chafee asked the Supreme Court to review the May court decision  ordering the state to turn Pleau over to federal custody. The Providence Journal reports the Supreme Court will decide whether to hear the case on Friday.

The ACLU has filed a brief urging the Supreme court to hear the case, as has the Cato Institute. The US Justice Department has urged the Supreme Court not hear the case

On Monday, Pleau's lawyers filed a motion asking the captial elements of the indictment be dismissed because they violate Pleau’s rights under the Fifth and Eighth and Tenth Amendments to the Constitution and the rights guaranteed him by the Federal Death Penalty Act (FDPA):

1. The Federal Death Penalty is so rarely sought and imposed that the statute operates in a fundamentally arbitrary and capricious manner;

2. There is no principled basis for distinguishing between cases in which the federal death penalty is imposed from those in which it is not;

3. The federal death penalty is sought and imposed on the invidious bases of race and race of the victim and the irrational basis of geography;

4. The Supreme Court’s decision in Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584 (2002), has rendered the federal death penalty unconstitutional

5. The Government has not obtained an indictment consistent with the requirements of the Fifth Amendment because there is no indication that the grand jury knew that it was authorizing a capital prosecution;

6. The FDPA fails to provide a structure which permits jurors to make a reasoned choice between a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of release and execution;

7. There is  overwhelming evidence that continued enforcement of the federal death penalty will lead to the execution of innocent people;

8. The people of the State of Rhode Island have rejected the death penalty;

9. The death penalty constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

According to the Federal Dealth Penalty Act, the US Attorney General makes the decision whether to invoke the death penalty for eligible cases. A full description of the process is avialable at justice.gov.

According to a 2011 report from the Congressional Research Service titlted: Federal Capital Offenses: An Abridged Overview of Substantive and Procedural Law, defendents are death-eligible only if found at a separate sentencing hearing to have acted with life-threatening intent.

"The Federal Death Penalty Act provides several specific aggravating factors, such as murder of a law enforcement officer or multiple murders committed at the same time. It also permits consideration of any relevant “non-statutory aggravating factors.” Impact on the victim’s family and future dangerousness of the defendant are perhaps the most commonly invoked non-statutory aggravating factors. The jury must agree on the existence of at least one of the statutory aggravating factors if the defendant is to be sentenced to death.

The Federal Death Penalty Act permits consideration of any relevant mitigating factor, and identifies a few, such as the absence of prior criminal record or the fact that a co-defendant, equally or more culpable, has escaped with a lesser sentence," according to the report.

Patricia Millett, a partner with the firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in Washington DC, the head of its Supreme Court litigation group, is handling the state's appeal pro bono, — at no cost to Rhode Island. 

Lotus Lily January 10, 2013 at 09:23 PM
Someone should tell his lawyer get the facts straight the RI people have never said they were against the death penalty, if anything most Rhode Islanders want stronger penalties against scumbags like this jerk so please don't put words into my mouth and the thousands of Rhode Islanders who believe in life and justice! What this man did was wrong, he took a life in cold blood and now wants his life spared at the tax payers expense, I don't think so! Sorry to sound cold but fry him and let him burn in hell!!!!!!!!!!
Rob Borkowski January 11, 2013 at 08:32 AM
Lotus - Never is a strong word. Historically, there was probably a principled opposition. Nowadays, who knows?
CB11 January 11, 2013 at 01:49 PM
You don't sound cold to me! I agree with you. The cold-hearted person here is Pleau who took it upon himself to impose the Death Penalty upon a truly innocent man. Did Mr. Main get any consideration? Compassion? And yet our Governor and the ACLU chooses to fight for this scumbag. I love the way Chafee will make a stand on certain things "bcause it is the law and must be upheld" and yet, completely ignore others - like those on illegal aliens because HE doesn't feel they are fair .... what HYPOCRISY!
Lotus Lily January 11, 2013 at 06:03 PM
Thank you CB11 as I totally agree with you! Chafee is a disgrace to his father and his legacy! Obviously the apple really did not fall from the same tree here! I worked as a teen as an intern for his dad and I know he'd be rolling in his grave right now! As for Rob you're right never is a strong word but I know many people, past and present, who've felt that getting rid of the death penalty for extreme cases like this was the stupidest thing we as humans have done! I could understand if there were some question as to if he were guilty or not but he choose to take that innocent mans life and play God! If this had happened to any of Chafee's kid, God forbid, I can guarente you he and his hypocritic idiot followers would be calling for a lynching! What this man did was despicable and I know many people who feel why should the taxpayers keep paying to house cold hearted murders like Pleau! In the old days it was always an eye for an eye and notice how screwed up society has become now that we coddle the criminals and practically cater to them! Enough is enough......our judicial system is an even bigger joke then our political one and until the people finally start to stand up for real changes it was always be a joke! We don't have to worry about God or the Universe destroying us, we're gonna destroy ourselves and we deserve it!
Andy Fuller January 12, 2013 at 04:21 AM
You have no clue how upset this whole situation makes me. First off, this proves the death penalty does serve as a deterrent. But what really gets me is how the person elected to the top job in the state thinks protecting this piece of work is more important than any of the major issues facing this state. The two reasons for most not liking the death penalty is the possibility of an innocent man getting it and it is not a deterrent. Current technology makes unlikely the wrong man is convicted. In cases such as this, it is highly unlikely such an error could be made. I do wish the death penalty would be reinstated here in RI. Unfortunately one Governor like Chaffee would most likely give Pleau a pardon. He is going far beyond the scope of his position protecting this murderer, who if for one second thought he could get the death penalty would have hesitated. This was thought out so it was the least chance of getting hurt. Pleau deserves to die, not just morally, but according to the law. As is typical with these types of criminals, he is a coward and if he had any chance of being hurt, he would have avoided it. Why do you think they only attack unarmed vulnerable people? This gives the best reason for carrying a gun than any reason not to.


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