"Death penalty vacated against Philadelphia man in killing of pregnant woman," is by Dan Clark of the Times Herald of Norristown.
A death sentence imposed on a Philadelphia man in the 2005 slaying of a pregnant woman has been vacated by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Harold Murray, 36, formerly of Philadelphia, who was convicted of three 2005 murders in 2009, will get a chance at a new sentence thanks to a Superior Court ruling filed on Jan. 6. The three murders included the death of the unborn fetus of Jennifer Pennington, and the death sentence was originally imposed by Common Please Judge Steve O’Neill.
In overturning the death sentence, Supreme Court Justice Max Baer wrote that the commonwealth should not have been able introduce the death penalty for the killing of the unborn child. The error was later fixed and Murray was given life in prison for the murder of the unborn child.
Until now, however, the death penalty for killing Jennifer Pennington had held up.
“First, Appellant argues that the jury’s erroneous belief that it was authorized to sentence Appellant to death for the murder of Pennington’s unborn child impacted and tainted the jury’s consideration of the death penalty for Pennington’s murder,” the appeal states.
The Philadelphia Daily News reports, "Philly man on death row for killing unborn child & her mother to get new sentencing," by Jason Nark.
Harold Murray IV, 36, of Philadelphia, was one of three men charged in the revenge-murder case that originated in Montgomery County. He received a death-penalty sentence for killing Pennington and her unborn child.
Prosecutors, according to local news accounts after the verdict, said the "death-penalty verdict for the murder of the unborn child sends a strong message about the importance of human life in Montgomery County."
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued its own strong message about the case in a recent ruling, however, citing one key detail of which everyone - including the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office, defense attorneys and even the judge presiding over the case - was apparently unaware.
Defendants can be charged with murdering an unborn child in Pennsylvania, but they can't receive the death penalty for it.
"Respectfully, that the murder of Pennington's unborn child was submitted to the jury as a death-eligible offense is shocking and calls into question the validity of the penalty phase as a whole," Supreme Court Justice Max Baer wrote.
"PA Death Sentence Nixed for 'Shocking' Error," is by Lorraine Bailey for Courthouse News Service.
Vacating the death sentence imposed against a convicted murderer, the Pennsylvania high court called it "shocking" that jurors were told that killing an unborn child is a capital offense.
Harold Murray IV was convicted in 2006 of three counts of first-degree murder with regard to the deaths of Shawne Mims, Jennifer Pennington and Pennington's unborn child.
Murray was sentenced to death for his role in the three murders, but the Pennsylvania Supreme Court vacated his sentence Friday for "egregious" error.
An experienced judge, two veteran defense attorneys and two skilled prosecutors all misinformed the sentencing jury that it could sentence Murray to death for the unborn child's murder.
"The jury was instructed at length that the unborn child's murder was a death-eligible conviction, which aggravating and mitigating circumstances were available for consideration for that murder, and how the jury should proceed in considering the proper penalty for that murder," Justice Max Baer wrote for the court.
Pennsylvania law, however, does not allow death penalty consideration for the murder of a fetus.
Earlier coverage from Pennsylvania begins at the link.