Rhode Island Tug of War


Jason Wayne Pleau is in Federal custody and awaiting a trial where he could face the death penalty, despite an extraordinary legal effort by the state’s governor to keep Pleau out of the federal government’s reach.  Governor Lincoln Chafee asked the U.S. Supreme Court to allow him to maintain state custody over Pleau, but was rebuffed on May 24th.

Pleau, 34,  is accused of shooting 49-year-old David Main to death outside a Woonsocket, RI bank in 2010.  When federal prosecutors charged him with that crime, he was in state custody for a probation violation.  Chafee went to federal court to prevent the transfer, saying it would expose Pleau to the federal death penalty for a crime committed in a state that outlaws the death penalty.  Rhode Island has a long history of abolition:  it was one of the first states to ban capital punishment, in 1852.  State legislators put the death penalty back in the statute books in 1872, but it languished there unused until another repeal in 1984.  The last execution in Rhode Island was in 1845.

Justice Stephen Breyer denied Chafee’s request to stay a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals order turning custody of Pleau over to federal authorities.  He was arraigned on the federal charges May 29th in Providence, RI,  U.S. Circuit Court, and was ordered held without bail.

The Governor and Pleau’s lawyers plan to appeal the underlying custody dispute to the U.S Supreme Court, but there is no certainty that the Court will agree to accept the case.


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