« South Carolina Supreme Court declares lifetime sex offender GPS tracking unconstitutional on various grounds | Main | "Drug crime sends first-time offender grandmom to prison for life" »

May 10, 2012

Rhode Island Gov to appeal to SCOTUS to resist turning over murderer to feds

As reported in this AP article, the "tug-of-war over an inmate in Rhode Island custody in a possible death penalty case escalated Wednesday as Gov. Lincoln Chafee said he will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court a federal court ruling allowing the inmate to stand trial in federal court."  Here is more:

Chafee said the court's close vote shows a split in the interpretation of the Interstate Agreement on Detainers Act, which allows governors to refuse to surrender inmates. The U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals voted 3-2 on Monday that Jason Pleau, 34, may stand trial in federal court where he faces a possible death penalty prosecution over a fatal robbery.

Rhode Island does not have the death penalty. The governor invoked the concept of states' rights in the fight over Pleau, who is accused of fatally shooting a gas station manager outside a Woonsocket bank in 2010.

"Given the close vote of the full court, which demonstrates a genuine split in the interpretation of the law, the state of Rhode Island must seek to protect both the strong states' rights issues at stake and the legitimacy of its longstanding public policy against the death penalty," Chafee said in a statement....

Federal prosecutors have not said whether Pleau would face the death penalty if convicted of killing 49-year-old David Main. Rhode Island-based U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha said in a statement after the Appeals Court ruling that his office is ready to move forward with the case. A spokesman for Neronha would not comment on Chafee's announcement....

Main's sister, Deborah Smith, told Chafee in an email Tuesday that his fight to keep Pleau in state custody is "obstructing justice." She told the governor it is time to stop wasting taxpayers' money.

Chafee said he regrets that the case continues to cause pain for Main's family. "I extend once again my most sincere condolences to them for their terrible loss, which resulted from such a senseless crime," he said.

Related prior posts:  

May 10, 2012 at 08:38 AM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Rhode Island Gov to appeal to SCOTUS to resist turning over murderer to feds:


As has so often been asked here, given the budget crunch, is Chafee's proposed suit the most prudent use of RI's tax dollars, particularly given the very small institutional and practical impact one way or the other? Is there a public cry among RI taxpayers to have their money spent in this way? Is there some better use?

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 10, 2012 9:14:00 AM

well bill like you federal prosecutors say when spending a million bucks to put a grandmother in jail for crap...If it saves JUST ONE CHILD! it's worth it!

maybe he's got the same saying!

Posted by: rodsmith | May 10, 2012 10:39:35 AM

Given the budget crunch, is this the most effective use of federal tax dollars? Is the people of the U.S. crying for this federal prosecution when the guy is willing to plea and accept life imprisonment?

The people of RI from the beginning were a different bunch, the product of dissenters. They have a minority view of the death penalty. They voted in an independent governor because they seem to like that sort of thing. And, relatively speaking, what does this amount to one way or the other?

States have defended "state rights" positions of all sorts, including allowing local sheriffs discretion to enforce gun laws in ways that bottom line come off as largely symbolic since the feds would likely not force a few outliers to do much at all. Other than this being a death penalty case, why is this different?

The Federalist Society should respect this sort of thing.

Posted by: Joe | May 10, 2012 12:21:00 PM

rodsmith --

You provide an excellent reason to vote against both Chafee and Eric Holder's boss.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 10, 2012 12:22:00 PM

Joe --

If, as you imply, the federal efforts here are a waste of money, why compound it with yet more tax dollars going to a Quixotic and almost certainly futile quest for cert? Isn't there a saying about not throwing good money after bad? Or is it just that the uber concern about tax expenditures kicks in when the DP is being sought, but disappears in a jiffy when alternatives to the DP are being sought, even though tax dollars are still tax dollars?

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 10, 2012 12:41:43 PM

|| All we have to go on are the statements of the three men who said anything about cruel and unusual punishments -- Abraham Holmes, Patrick Henry, and George Mason -- and the general orientation of the Anti-Federalists.~~Mannheimer ||

Faux uncertainty.
They supported hanging, not drawing and quartering; lashing, not amputation.
Perhaps you perceive vagueness because it affords legroom?

If you do suffer from genuine nescience, rather than being a covert purveyor of dissimulation
falsely representing original intent as mysterious or inscrutable, below are few examples of
the lucid concurrence throughout the country at the time.

1. "The first federal execution was on June 25, 1790," {RI had been the last state to ratify the Constitution on May 29, 1790;)

2. The "First US Congress Establishes Federal Death Penalty" on April 30, 1790, (In 1787 the 5th and 14th Amendments recognizing it with due process).

3. "Death Penalty Used in All 13 US Colonies at Outbreak of American Revolution"; G. Washington ordered executions during the Revolution.

4. One of 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence is known to have not favoured the penalty (B. Rush).
~~Pbs.org, Gwu.org, Procon.org

Posted by: Adamakis | May 10, 2012 2:16:03 PM

The following is the text of a letter sent by Deborah Smith to Gov. Lincoln Chafee. A copy was emailed to the NBC 10 I-Team.

Dear Governor Chafee,

My brother was murdered by Jason Pleau.

Our family is hoping for justice for David. It is time for you to stop wasting taxpayers money on this attempt to protect a murderer from being properly prosecuted by the federal system.

It has not been decided whether he will or will not receive the death penalty.
You are obstructing justice.

If your son Caleb was shot in the head, in broad daylight while doing his job you would be horrified, as we were!

We were relieved when all of these thugs were caught. Never in our wildest dreams did we think that the Governor of our state, would get on his own bandwagon to protect a career criminal! You have made a terrible situation much worse for our family! We should have never had to go through all this! He would have been arraigned a long time ago, if it wasn't for your agenda.

Please stop this now! Enough is enough.

Deborah Smith

Posted by: Adamakis | May 10, 2012 2:21:20 PM

Adamakis --

Thank you for that entry.

I'll be interested to see if there are any here who want to sign their names (as Deborah Smith signed hers) to a comment telling Ms. Smith that she's a bloodlusting savage, or any of the usual phrases to that effect.

This should be good.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 10, 2012 3:26:27 PM

Bill Otis

How many judges are on the 1st Circuit when they sit enbanc? The vote was 3-2?

Posted by: DaveP | May 10, 2012 3:44:15 PM

Bill Otis

I checked and there are 5 active judges including the Chief. No huge caseload up there in the Northeast. No repetitive death cases to clog up the docket.

I didn't see any blog post the Tennessee Court of Appeals decision in West vs Schofield in April. Good Read.

Posted by: DaveP | May 10, 2012 4:02:35 PM

DaveP --

Sorry to be late, and I'll take a look at the Tennessee case.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 10, 2012 4:55:40 PM

"If, as you imply, the federal efforts here are a waste of money, why compound it with yet more tax dollars going to a Quixotic and almost certainly futile quest for cert?"

I explained why RI might be interested to spend the relatively small amount of money to make a point here. You are the one who only provided one side of the "this is dumb fiscally" argument and I replied to it. I on another thread disagreed with an argument made that the feds are required to follow local rule here as to the penalty. So, your implications of inconsistency are weak.

Posted by: Joe | May 11, 2012 11:21:12 AM

Deborah Smith's words are obviously understandable, but the people of her state has determined "justice" here does not include the death penalty. The person has agreed to life in prison to avoid the death penalty. In other states, the death penalty is allowed. In some cases, the families of the victims oppose the death penalty. This in fact was the case in a recent well covered execution. Their feelings were respectively taken. The person was still executed.

Posted by: Joe | May 11, 2012 11:28:37 AM


If you have discovered a source that tells you what all 3 million inhabitants of the U.S. meant in 1791 by "cruel and unusual punishments," please do tell me where to find it. I have been looking for seven years, but I have to assume that you have been looking at it for much longer or much more assiduously than I.

Posted by: Michael J.Z. Mannheimer | May 11, 2012 10:32:34 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB