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Reid sentenced to death

October 13, 1998|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A Franklin County jury sentenced Albert Ezron Reid to death Monday after he refused to allow attorneys to argue he was mentally ill.

"His mental illness prevented his mental illness testimony from getting in," Public Defender Robert J. Trambley said after the jury deliberated an hour before deciding Reid, 49, should die by lethal injection for the murders of his estranged wife and stepdaughter.

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"Surely it's frustrating, but I don't pay the price for it ... he's going to pay for it with his life," co-counsel Stephen D. Kulla said.

On Friday, the nine-man, three-woman jury took an hour to find the Biglerville, Pa., man guilty on two counts of first-degree murder and one count of burglary in the Dec. 27, 1996, shooting deaths of Carla Reid, 36, and Deidra Moore, 14, in their Sollenberger Road home.

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The jury returned Monday for the penalty phase, but was out of the courtroom when Reid refused to let psychiatrists testify about examinations they conducted for competency proceedings in May.

A defense psychiatrist said then that Reid was delusional and incompetent to stand trial. At the same hearing, a court-appointed psychiatrist said Reid was competent, but had a severe personality disorder.

"It would be foolish not to let the psychiatrists testify," Judge John R. Walker told Reid.

Reid said the examinations were only conversations and "there was no time that they checked my fitness." Reid refused twice to undergo tests to determine if he had medical problems.

"No sir, no," Reid said Monday when Walker asked if he would let them testify.

Reid also would not allow Trambley to testify. Kulla wanted him to relate Reid's behavior during the months he represented him.

"I think what goes on between me and my attorney is a private conversation," Reid said.

When the jury returned, Kulla was left with little mitigating evidence to present. He spent the morning calling witnesses to establish a foundation for the mental illness defense.

Diane Shirley of Chambersburg testified Reid lived with her 10 years ago. When there was a fire while he was alone in the house, she said he claimed "someone else ran through the kitchen, turned the stove on and the kitchen caught fire."

Former co-workers at Little Tykes in Shippensburg, Pa., said Reid, a native of Jamaica, argued with employees, threw toys, and insulted and threatened women.

"Without our second half, some testimony from us probably helped the district attorney," Kulla said afterward.

"I've been directed by Mr. Reid not to argue certain things that I had planned to argue today," Kulla said in his closing argument. All he could tell the jury was Reid had no previous criminal record in the United States and was a well-behaved inmate at the county prison.

District Attorney John F. Nelson told the jury there were three aggravating circumstances in each murder, including that Reid killed the women to keep them from testifying against him in a felony sexual assault case.

Walker told the jurors they must come back with a sentence of death if the aggravating circumstances outweighed mitigating circumstances. The death verdict had to be unanimous, he said.

"What finally did it for me was the gunpowder on his sleeves and gloves," said one juror who would not give his name. During the trial, a prosecution expert testified there was gunshot residue on a jacket Reid was wearing the day of the murders.

"That's the way it had to go. It's almost like there was no choice," another juror said of the death penalty.

Told that Reid refused to cooperate on the mental illness defense, the first juror said, "Well, we know that now."

Friends testified Monday that Carla Reid was a hard-working single mother of six who worked two jobs to support her family and often cooked before work so the baby sitter could give them home-cooked meals.

Teachers and counselors at Faust Junior High School said Deidra Moore was a popular and well-behaved student.

"I feel we got justice in the end," Carla Reid's sister Lisa Gardner of Chambersburg said after the death penalty verdict.

Assistant District Attorney Angela Krom said all death penalty cases are automatically reviewed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Reid's formal sentencing is set for Oct. 21.

Kulla said Reid's mental state and its effect on his defense would be raised as an issue on appeal.

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