WOONSOCKET – The New York Times on Friday weighed in on Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s defiance of a federal court order to turn over accused killer Jason Wayne Pleau to prevent him from exposure to the death penalty, lauding him for taking “a principled position” in the case.
Pleau is accused of the September 2010 shooting death of gas station manager David D. Main of Lincoln outside Citizens Bank on Diamond Hill Road.
The governor has refused to turn him over to federal prosecutors, citing the state’s longstanding opposition to the death penalty, even, as Chafee has put it, for those “guilty of the most heinous crimes.”
“And Gov. Chafee rightly argues that the death penalty is abhorrent, costly and ineffective,” the six-paragraph Times editorial opines.
Chafee’s stand has triggered a legal tug of war for custody of Pleau now playing out in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston. A judicial panel initially sided with Chafee in October, voting 2-1 in favor of upholding the state’s right to refuse the government’s demand for Pleau. But after federal prosecutors pressed for a rehearing, the full court vacated the ruling last week until the full court has an opportunity to review the matter.
A hearing is scheduled for April 4.
The Times said the “the full court was right to leave Mr. Pleau” at the state prison until the matter is resolved because “the case raises a serious legal question: whether the governor’s refusal violates the Constitution and its clause making federal law, including a federal writ, ‘the supreme Law of the Land,’ or whether, under the Interstate Agreement on Detainers, a governor has the right to refuse to hand over a prisoner to the federal government...”
“In asking the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit to vindicate him, Mr. Chafee makes a good but not guaranteed case that he can deny Washington’s request,” the Times said.
Rhode Island abolished the death penalty in 1984 and hasn’t executed anyone since 1852, but criminals accused of certain crimes by the federal government can still be executed even if those offenses occurred in the state.
A career criminal who has spent most of his adult life in prison, Pleau, 34, remains held at the ACI on probation and parole violations. He is allegedly one of three individuals who conspired to rob Main, 49, a Lincoln resident, as he was depositing money from the Shell gas station, where he worked, at the bank. Pleau allegedly shot him once in the head just feet from the front door of the bank, then made of with a satchel containing some $12,500 Main had been carrying.