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Man who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder asking for new trial

August 13, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- A man who pleaded guilty to first-degree felony murder in the August 1997 shooting death of a Waynesboro, Pa., man was back in court Tuesday claiming he did not understand the nature of the charge to which he entered a plea and asking for a new trial.

Washington County Circuit Judge Donald E. Beachley said he would make a decision in about 60 days.

Two attorneys who represented David Paul Paschall, 34, in the 1990s testified Tuesday that they had several lengthy discussions with their former client about the meaning of first-degree felony murder.

Felony murder is a murder committed during the commission of a felony, in this case a robbery.

One of those attorneys, Steven Kessell, now works as a deputy state's attorney for Washington County. He remembered Paschall as an "engaged and intelligent" defendant, Kessell testified.

Both Kessell and the other attorney, Thomas Sinton, were working in private practice at the time, and were asked by the Office of the Public Defender to defend Paschall.

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Assistant Public Defender Autumn Lovato said that Paschall's September 1998 plea was not knowingly and voluntarily given because he did not understand the charge of felony murder. The defense's other complaint in court Tuesday alleged ineffective counsel because Paschall's attorneys did not explain felony murder.

On the witness stand Tuesday, Paschall said he agreed to the plea because he though he understood what he was agreeing to, but later he discovered what felony murder meant. During his sentencing in January 1999, Paschall asked Washington County Circuit Judge Frederick Wright if he could withdraw the plea.

"I don't want to plead guilty to something I had no knowledge was going to happen," Paschall told the judge in 1999, according to an account in The Herald-Mail.

Paschall, who had a seventh-grade education at the time of the case, on Tuesday said he wouldn't have pleaded guilty if he had understood the nature of felony murder.

Paschall's co-defendant, Jerome Bernard Lockley, pleaded guilty to first-degree felony murder and a handgun violation, and was sentenced recently to life in prison. Lockley confessed to being the shooter the night of Aug. 25, 1997, when police found Matthew Roy Hovis, 25, shot once in the left temple in to the rear of a bookstore at 23 E. Washington St.

Paschall and Lockley went out that night looking for someone to rob, police have said.

Deputy State's Attorney Joseph Michael on Tuesday questioned Paschall about correspondence from July 1998 between him and his then-attorneys. The letters addressed jury instructions and prior cases dealing with felony murder, Michael said.

Paschall was sentenced to life in prison with all but 40 years suspended. He is being held at the Maryland Correctional Institution south of Hagerstown.

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