Criminal Justice News and VIews

Interesting items related to criminal justice

My Photo
Location: Scottsdale, Arizona, United States

I love teaching and sharing knowledge. The Internet is a free passage to an amazing amount of knowledge provided by some of the greatest minds of the day. MIT, Oxford and other universities are now sharing lecture notes with the public and allowing us to dip into the overflowing fonts of wisdom that abound. Yale is but one university that has put actual lectures on the web.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Truth is Stranger than Fiction

August 9, 2006

Lawyers in Murder Appeal Use Cigarette-Break Defense

COLUMBUS, Ohio, Aug. 8 — Lawyers for a man convicted of beating a former girlfriend to death with a lead pipe argued before the Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday that their client should be spared the death penalty, partly because jurors were not allowed to smoke while deliberating.

“A capital trial is supposed to be a considered process,” said Keith A. Yeazel, one of the lawyers. “Jurors shouldn’t be trying to speed up the process so they can go outside and smoke a Kool cigarette.”

The defendant, Phillip E. Elmore, 43, admitted his guilt during his trial in October 2003. While on the stand, Mr. Elmore said, “I feel I deserve the worst punishment that there is,” according to the court transcript.

But in an hourlong hearing here, lawyers representing Mr. Elmore in the appeals process argued that his trial lawyers had failed to provide an adequate defense that might have spared his life.

They also noted that the trial lawyers had not objected when Judge Jon R. Spahr of the Licking County Common Pleas Court rejected jurors’ request for cigarette breaks while they were deliberating. This amounted to discrimination against smokers, Joseph Edwards, another of the lawyers, said Tuesday, and created a reason for jurors to rush through the most important phase of the trial.

The jurors had had to decide whether Mr. Elmore was guilty of aggravated murder and, in a second phase of deliberations, whether he deserved the death penalty or life in prison.

The justices appeared unimpressed with the lawyers’ argument.

“You’re saying that because the trial judge didn’t allow them to smoke that smokers are being discriminated against?” Justice Maureen O’Connor said. “Are you proposing a new right for an entire class of people?”

Before the hearing, Mr. Elmore’s lawyers acknowledged that the tactic was unusual and unlikely to succeed.

“We don’t believe this is the best issue in the case,” Mr. Yeazel said. “But if we don’t raise it on direct appeal, we’ll never be able to talk about it if it becomes an issue in federal court.”

Mr. Edwards said that Mr. Elmore’s father had beat Mr. Elmore and sexually abused his sister. Mr. Elmore was in and out of jail for various offenses from ages 20 to 38, Mr. Yeazel said, including a stint at the Licking County Jail, where his girlfriend, Pamela Annarino, worked as a sheriff’s deputy.

On June 1, 2002, Mr. Elmore broke into Ms. Annarino’s house while she was away, according to the case transcript. He was upset because she had ended their relationship, he said at trial. Ms. Annarino returned home to find Mr. Elmore waiting with a loaded shotgun, the transcript says.

He then choked her and struck her four times in the head with a pipe, according to his confession, which was entered as evidence.

Copyright - The New York Times