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Pa. killer's appeal denied

June 01, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The murder convictions and death sentence of Albert Reid will be appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court after Franklin County President Judge John R. Walker denied post-trial motions for a new trial and modification of sentence.

Reid, 50, was sentenced to die by lethal injection in October after a jury convicted him of the murders of his estranged wife, Carla Reid, 36, of Chambersburg, and her 14-year-old daughter, Deidra Moore. Both were shot in the head as they slept in their Sollenberger Road home on Dec. 27, 1996.

Walker's 47-page ruling was filed Friday with the Clerk of Courts Office. In it, he rejected arguments raised by the defense on more than two dozen issues.

"We didn't believe he raised any issues that were meritorious to the extent that the court would have granted him a new trial," District Attorney John F. Nelson said Tuesday. He said death penalty cases are automatically appealed to the state Supreme Court.

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Nelson said the Supreme Court will examine possible trial errors and conduct an "automatic review of the death sentence to determine its appropriateness."

According to state law, the court should uphold the sentence unless it was the "product of passion, prejudice or any other arbitrary factor," evidence failed to support at least one aggravating circumstance, or it is disproportionate to the penalty imposed in similar cases.

Among the post-trial motions, Reid claimed Walker, who was the trial judge, failed to grant a motion challenging the jury pool, which had one minority.

"The defendant has not produced any evidence that any under representation of African-Americans ... was based on a systematic exclusion of that group," Walker wrote.

Walker rejected arguments that he should have granted a change of venue or sequestered the jury because of publicity before or during the trial. He wrote that coverage of the case was "not inherently prejudicial."

Nelson said no jury has been sequestered for a criminal trial during his 22 years with the county.

Walker rejected several defense arguments because the decisions were directly in Reid's hands. One of those was that the judge improperly allowed Reid to represent himself for a three-week period before the trial began.

Reid "voluntarily chose to represent himself ... with all its possible pitfalls," he wrote.

The judge applied the same logic to arguments that he should have allowed two psychiatrists and Public Defender Robert J. Trambley to testify during the penalty phase of the trial. Walker wrote that Reid was the one who insisted they not testify for the defense.

Walker also noted that Reid granted police permission to search his Chambersburg motel room. That search turned up a "death list" with Carla Reid and Moore's names. The defense wanted it suppressed.

"Without reading the whole thing, I'd be hesitant to talk about it," Trambley said of Walker's decision. Co-counsel Stephen D. Kulla was out of town Tuesday, according to his office.

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