Pennsylvania juries have rarely imposed the death penalty in recent years, so it’s unusual that two Philadelphia Common Pleas Court juries are now sitting in cases where death by lethal injection could be imposed.
On the 10th floor of the city’s Criminal Justice Center, a jury will begin hearing evidence Thursday before deciding if Fernando Real, 31, should be put to death or spend the rest of his life in prison without chance of parole for a double murder in 2002 in Frankford.
The Common Pleas Court jury deliberated about three hours Tuesday before find Real guilty of first-degree murder in the Sept. 9 shootings of Byron Story and Marcus Herbert, both 18, in what police called a drug-related robbery-murder. Both teens were shot about 4:30 a.m. outside Herbert’s home in the 5200 block of Hawthorne Street. Story was shot in the head and died on the sidewalk; Herbert was shot twice in the back and died 13 months later.
Former Philadelphia Police Officers Chauncey Ellison and Robin Fortune surrendered Friday to begin serving their 11-1/2- to 23-month prison terms in the 2008 shooting death of a West Oak Lane man in an argument over a stolen pizza pie.
Ellison, 41, a sergeant with the police force for nine years, and Fortune, 45, an officer for 13 years, were taken into custody in the courtroom of Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Sandy L.V. Byrd, who formally denied a motion filed by Ellison’s lawyer Brian J. McMonagle to reduce the prison term.
On Nov. 26, a jury convicted Ellison and Fortune of reckless endangerment in the death of Lawrence Allen, 20. The jury deadlocked on a voluntary manslaughter count against Ellison, who fired the fatal shot, and a conspiracy count against Fortune. The jury also acquitted Ellison of gun and conspiracy counts. The District Attorney’s office announced on Jan. 29 that it would not retry Ellison and Fortune on charges on which the jury could not reach a verdict.
Should an admitted child rapist be allowed to change his decision to plead guilty and demand his Constitutional right to a jury trial?
If your answer is yes, what happens if the prosecutor has already told the traumatized child victim they’ll never have to testify?
They are the questions Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court has decided to answer in the case of Commonwealth v. Jose A. Carrasquillo.
The odds of finding the person who hit Michael Brady in the predawn hours of March 27, 2012 did not look good.
When Philadelphia Police Officer Mark Eib arrived, around 65 minutes after the 2 a.m. hit-and-run in the 2300 block of East Cumberland Street in Kensington, the accident investigation officer’s clues were a pool of blood and a windshield wiper and its controller arm.
The victim, a 29-year-old off-duty police officer walking home after drinking with friends in a nearby tavern, had a concussion and remembered nothing. A neighborhood resident, who heard the thud of a crash and went down to help Brady, did not see the car that drove off.
Kermit Gosnell, the former West Philadelphia abortionist convicted and sentenced to three consecutive life prison terms for killing three infants born alive during illegal late-term abortions, has a new title and address: Inmate LJ1445, of the State Correctional Institution at Graterford.
Gosnell, 72, was transferred to the sprawling prison in Montgomery County earlier this month after he was sentenced Dec. 16 in federal court in Philadelphia on his guilty plea to operating a “pill mill” – selling prescriptions for controlled narcotic drugs -- out of his Women’s Medical Society clinic at 3801 Lancaster Ave. Before then, he was being held at the Federal Detention Center at Seventh and Arch Streets in Center City.
This won’t be Gosnell’s last stop in the Pennsylvania prison system. According to state prison spokeswoman Susan Benzinger, Gosnell is in a holding area at Graterford pending his transfer to the Camp Hill state prison near Harrisburg. Camp Hill is the diagnostic center for all new inmates before they are permanently assigned to an institution.
If the attention of Eagles fans is now on next Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys for the NFC East title, a few readers have asked, “Whatever happened to the teachable moment?”
That was a long time ago – August – after a video was released showing Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper, intoxicated and angry, using a racial epithet at a black security guard at a Kenny Chesney concert at Lincoln Financial Field in June.
In the midst of the media storm, Eagles management called up one of the team’s biggest fans, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, and asked him for a list of charities and community service programs that might benefit from Cooper’s team fine or his participation.
He went to prison as a teenager -- a street-corner drug dealer working for a friend’s brother -- convicted for the attempted robbery and murder of a North Philadelphia businessman.
He came out 15 years into a life sentence, a 34-year-old adult married to a woman he had never lived with and into a technological world that left him long behind, through a Philadelphia judge’s ruling that he and his friend were wrongly convicted of the Aug. 31, 1995 slaying of Thomas Keal, 52.
If anyone can attest to the mind-bending twists of life, it’s Eugene Gilyard. And if he and Lance Felder, also 34, are not yet truly free – the District Attorney’s office is re-investigating Keal’s killing and could decide to retry them – the chain linking them to prison is now a lot looser.
Jose Carrasquillo is probably unaware of the influence he’s had.
At the Nov. 30, 2011 hearing where he was sentenced to 30 to 66 years in prison for raping an 11-year-old Kensington girl and the attempted assault of a 16-year-old, Carrasquillo asked for a do-over: he wanted to withdraw his guilty plea and go to trial because he was innocent.
Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Ramy I. Djerassi said no; Carrasquillo was not acting in good faith and was trying to manipulate the justice system. The judge didn’t believe Carrasquillo’s claim that he was the Antichrist and was being framed by federal agents trying to send him to China to assassinate the president.