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Court won't get involved in RI inmate tug-of-war

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 14, 2013 at 1:11 pm •  Published: January 14, 2013
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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The Supreme Court on Monday said it won't stop the federal government from detaining and prosecuting a Rhode Island inmate who faces the possibility of execution, despite arguments that doing so violates the rights of a state without the death penalty.

The high court refused to hear an appeal from Jason Pleau and the state of Rhode Island.

Pleau is currently awaiting trial in federal court in the killing of a gas station manager who was shot as he approached a Woonsocket bank to deposit money. If convicted, he could be sentenced to death.

Pleau, 35, initially had been in state custody. After federal prosecutors charged him, Gov. Lincoln Chafee refused to turn him over, citing the state's rejection of capital punishment.

But an appeals court ruled last year the state must surrender Pleau to federal officials, despite the state's insistence that the federal government is violating a legal agreement that authorizes the state to deny a request to transfer a prisoner.

U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha said he was pleased by the decision and that his office was prepared to move ahead with the case immediately.

Pleau's lawyer, Bob Mann, said only that they were disappointed by the decision. Pleau's trial is scheduled to begin in September.

Chafee, an independent, was visibly shaken when he learned of the decision from a reporter Monday morning. He said he was disappointed but acknowledged the state's case was at an end.

"This is a state's rights issue," he said. "I thought the law was on our side."

Later, he issued a statement thanking groups including the National Governor's Association, attorneys general from seven states, the conservative Cato Institute, the American Civil Liberties Union and others who filed briefs in support of Rhode Island's position.

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