That's the title of an editorial in today's New York Times.
Jason Wayne Pleau, a Rhode Island prisoner, has said he would accept a life sentence without parole, the state’s severest punishment, for robbing and murdering a gas-station manager. The Justice Department, however, wants to prosecute him for those crimes under federal law with the option of seeking the death penalty. The crimes are generally handled by states, so the department’s insistence on making this a federal case is hard to fathom. Justice would be well served if the department let the state deal with Mr. Pleau.
Gov. Lincoln Chafee had refused to transfer custody of Mr. Pleau unless the federal government agreed not to seek the death penalty. The state’s voters abolished the punishment in 1984, and it has not executed anyone since 1852. This week, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled that Governor Chafee must surrender Mr. Pleau under a federal law that governs transfers of prisoners between states and the federal government.
But the government’s insistence on prosecuting him in federal court so it can charge him with a capital crime — it has not indicated if it will seek the death penalty — is largely fueled by bravado. It’s been nine years since anyone was executed for a federal crime. In the last decade when federal juries have had a choice between imposing a life sentence and the death penalty, they have chosen a life sentence by better than two to one. The government is turning this case into a pointless state-federal clash.
"Chafee appeals federal decision on Pleau," is the AP report via the Woonsocket Call.
A 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
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.
The Providence Journal reports, "R.I. Gov. Chafee to appeal Pleau case to U.S. Supreme Court." It's by Katie Mulvaney.
Citing Rhode Island's longstanding ban on the death penalty, Governor Chafee announced Wednesday the state will appeal a decision demanding its surrender of a murder suspect to federal custody to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"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 an emailed statement.
Earlier coverage of the Rhode Island-Federal dispute begins at the link.