Custody battles are typically associated with the children of divorcing parents and, occasionally, the beloved pets of over-indulgent rich people.
For convicted murderer Jason Wayne Pleau, it's the feds and state authorities who are fighting for custody of him. In his case, however, the winner could decide whether he lives or dies, and the outcome of the custody battle is once again in the hands of the First Circuit Court of Appeals.
Overturning its ruling from earlier this year, the First Circuit agreed to rehear its decision to leave Pleau in the custody of state authorities.
Pleau pleaded guilty to state murder charges in exchange for life in prison since Rhode Island does not have the death penalty. The charges stem from a fatal bank robbery in 2010 that took the life of gas station manager David Main.
The U.S. Attorney's Office, however, wanted to try him in federal court for the crime and filed an Interstate Agreement on Detainers to get custody of Pleau. Since a federal sentence could carry the death penalty, Rhode Island and its governor, Lincoln Chaffee, opposed the transfer, refusing the feds to "ride roughshod" over the Ocean State's conscious rejection of the death penalty.
The First Circuit originally held that the government's subsequent ad prosequendum writ following the governor's denial of the IAD still fell under the governor's jurisdiction, and Chaffee had the right to reject it. Its most recent order vacates its October decision, however, and Pleau will once again have to face the possibility of a federal trial and a possible federal death sentence.
Attorneys for Pleau will have the opportunity to argue against that possibility in front of a full panel of judges in April.
- U.S. v. Pleau (FindLaw's CaseLaw)
- RI Lawyers Appeal Transfer to Feds on Death Penalty Case (FindLaw's First Circuit blog)
- FindLaw's First Circuit blog (FindLaw)