An inmate involved in a federal capital crime can stand trial in federal court, says the First Circuit Court of Appeals.
In a 3-2 decision on Monday, the appellate court reversed its panel decision, and ruled in favor of the government in the case against Jason Pleau.
Pleau has been caught between the federal and state judiciary in a controversy stemming from Pleau's 2010 charges involving the fatal shooting of a gas station manager in Woonsocket, Rhode Island.
The Governor of Rhode Island, Lincoln Chafee, sided with Pleau in an attempt to shield Pleau from facing the death penalty. Rhode Island currently doesn't have the death penalty, but, if tried under the federal judicial system, Pleau could find himself on death row.
The First Circuit Court of Appeals, in an en banc opinion, ruled that the state prison would be a "refuge against federal charges" for Pleau, should he be allowed to stay there.
Jason Pleau was already serving an 18-year sentence in state prison for parole violations at the time he was indicted for the fatal robbery. The federal government asked the state of Rhode Island to hand Pleau over, but Gov. Chafee refused.
Pleau already agreed to plead guilty to the murder in state court and to a life sentence without the possibility of parole (the murder charges were later dismissed). Thus, according to statements by Chafee, it is possible that under the separate federal prosecution, the death penalty would be sought.
Last year, Pleau's appeal was heard by a three-judge panel of the First Circuit Court of Appeals. There, the panel held in favor of Pleau and Gov. Chafee.
The case of Jason Wayne Pleau is far from over as the case could proceed to a federal criminal trial or the Supreme Court. There is no definitive word yet as to whether federal prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty.
July 24, 2012: This blog has been revised to further clarify the statements regarding Pleau's murder charges and the possibility of federal authorities seeking the death penalty.
- U.S. v. Pleau (First Circuit Court of Appeals)
- Gov. Chafee Wins Showdown: Feds Can't Execute Wayne Pleau (FindLaw's First Circuit Blog)
- RI Lawyers Appeal Transfer to Feds on Death Penalty Case (FindLaw's First Circuit Blog)
- Browse First Circuit Cases (FindLaw Cases)