Courts | Supreme Court Asked to Stay out of Pleau Case

Article excerpt

The U.S. Justice Department is urging the nation's highest court not to get further involved in the custody battle over accused killer Jason Wayne Pleau, who is currently in federal custody and may face the death penalty if convicted.

Governor Chafee, who's opposed to the death penalty, wants to block Pleau's 2013 federal trial and have him prosecuted in state court where, according to court papers, he's agreed to plead guilty and take a sentence of life without parole.

Chafee is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review and overturn a decision by the 1{+s}{+t} U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the state must surrender Pleau to federal custody to face charges in connection with the 2010 robbery and shooting death of 49-year-old gas station manager David D. Main, who was killed outside a Woonsocket bank where he'd gone to make a deposit. Prosecutors say that Pleau was the masked gunman who fatally shot Main in the head with a .38-caliber revolver and stole $12,542 in deposits, which he split with two others.

Until the appeals court forced his hand in May, Chafee had refused to relinquish Pleau from state custody, citing Rhode Island's longstanding rejection of the death penalty. The appeals court, in a 3-to-2 decision, rejected the state's arguments that Chafee had the authority to refuse to surrender Pleau under the Interstate Agreement on Detainers, a federal law that governs the transfer of inmates between states and the federal government.

The governor is asking the nation's top court to review that decision, saying that appeals courts nationwide remain divided on the issue and that the U.S. Supreme Court needs to clarify the relationship between the 48 states that are party to the agreement and the federal government.

Chafee's petition for a writ of certiorari is supported by a group dedicated to preserving states' rights, the Rhode Island Affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union and other criminal defense organizations, including the federal public defender offices in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire; the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and its Rhode Island counterpart; the National Legal Aid & Defender Association; and Colegio de Abogados de Puerto Rico, which has filed a "friend of the court" brief backing Chafee's opposition to the appeals court ruling. …

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