Defense seeks death penalty removal

CLARKSBURG – Lawyers for an inmate accused of killing another prisoner at the U.S. Penitentiary at Hazleton are asking a judge to remove the death penalty from the case.

The request is among several motions filed recently by Patrick Franklin Andrews’ lawyers in U.S. District Court in Clarksburg. Andrews’ lawyers also are seeking dismissal of the indictment and a hearing on the conditions of his confinement at the prison, according to reports.

Andrews, 33, and co-defendant Kevin Bellinger, 32, are each charged with aiding and abetting murder by a federal prisoner serving a life sentence. The charges stem from the slaying of another inmate, 28-year-old Jesse Harris, at the prison in 2007.

If Andrews is convicted, federal prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty. They won’t pursue it for Bellinger.

Andrews’ lawyers say the federal death penalty is arbitrary and discriminatory. Their motion asks U.S. District Judge Irene Keeley to declare the federal death penalty unconstitutional and change the case to a noncapital one, arguing that “the death penalty is racist to its very core” and has led to the execution of the innocent.

In another motion, the defense lawyers said the indictment should be dismissed because Andrews, who is black, was denied his right to be indicted by a jury consisting of a fair cross-section of the community. They contended that the selection process resulted in a grand jury that under-represented the black population.

Andrews’ lawyers claim in another motion that he is being held under cruel and inhumane conditions at the prison. They say he has been in administrative detention at the prison’s Special Housing Unit since the day of the slaying.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Flower also has filed motions in the case, including one that argues that government lawyers should have the right to cross-examine Andrews if he wants to make any comments during his trial’s sentencing phase, if he is convicted.

Andrews is scheduled to stand trial in June 2014, although his lawyers have requested that the proceeding be delayed until sometime in 2015. Bellinger’s trial is scheduled to begin June 9, 2014.