"Death sentence of Marine Kenneth G. Parker overturned on appeal," is the McClatchy DC Bureau post written by Michael Doyle.
A Marine enlisted man who was convicted nearly two decades ago of two killings in North Carolina now will live out his life in prison, after a military appeals court overturned his death sentence this week.
Citing “numerous” problems in the original trial of former Lance Cpl. Kenneth G. Parker, the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed some charges and resentenced Parker to life in prison. Since 1995, he’s been the only Marine on the military’s small death row.
“We have upset aspects of this verdict and will set aside the death penalty due to numerous and substantive procedural and legal failures at trial,” Judge J.A. Maksym noted. “Yet no error by the trial judge below should distract us from the overwhelming evidence of guilt.”
The court threw out Parker’s conviction for one of the two murders and reassessed his sentence for the other crime. The decision continues a trend of military death sentences being overturned on appeal – 11 out of 16 death sentences since 1984. The last military execution occurred in 1961.
Jennifer Zeldis, a spokeswoman for the Navy's Office of the Judge Advocate General, said late Thursday afternoon that officials were considering whether to seek further review of the case.
"Only Marine on military's death row has sentence overturned," by Jeff Black for NBC News.
A military appeals court has overturned the death sentence of Lance Cpl. Kenneth G. Parker, who had been the only Marine on the military’s death row, according to court documents.
In 1995, Parker was sentenced to death after being convicted of two counts of premeditated murder, and one count of armed robbery and kidnapping. The appeals court threw out one of the two murder counts on Wednesday, and instead of the death penalty, Parker will spend the rest of his life in prison.
“The appellant’s premeditated murder of LCpl Page, his fellow Marine, was carried out with chilling callousness and depravity,” Judge J.A. Maksym wrote in the opinion. “We have upset aspects of this verdict and will set aside the death penalty due to numerous and substantive procedural and legal failures at trial, some leading to constitutional deprivation. Yet no error by the trial judge below should distract us from the overwhelming evidence of the appellant’s guilt as to the robbery and murder of LCpl Page. This was truly a heinous killing and, minus the errors cited above, assuming the death penalty was awarded, we would have affirmed.”
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, five men remain on the military’s death row at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. The last military execution took place on April 13, 1961, when U.S. Army Private John A. Bennett was hanged after being convicted of rape and attempted murder.
As always with U.S. military justice issues, CAAFlog has outstanding coverage (with a link to the opinion) and analysis of the ruling. CAAFlog is listed in the left-column webroll under More Criminal Justice Web Resources.