In a case which brings up questions of jurisdiction and state rights, Gov. Lincoln Chafee murder suspect Jason Pleau to the federal government yesterday, stating that he could not expose a Rhode Island resident to the possibility of a death penalty prosecution.
Pleau was one of three suspects and robbery of David Main, which took place at Citizens Bank on Diamond Hill Road in Woonsocket in September of 2010. Main was shot to death at close range and robbed of a $12,542 deposit he was bringing to the bank from the Shell gas station he managed.
Because accounts at all U.S. banks are insured by the federal government, bank robbery and the other crimes related to Main's murder fall under federal jurisdiction.
The federal government has not decided if it will seek the death penalty for Pleau, but the case would be considered eligible. Although Rhode Island does not have a death penalty, defendant can still receive the death penalty for a federal capital crime.
In the past, critics have claimed this an usurpation of states’ rights, as well as a potential violation of the Eighth Amendment of the Bill of Rights, which prohibits the government from imposing cruel and unusual punishment.
Pleau is serving an 18-year sentence at an Adult Correctional Institutes for a separate case, and has not yet been arraigned on the federal charges of Hobbs Act conspiracy to commit robbery affecting commerce, Hobbs Act robbery affecting commerce, and using a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, causing the death of another. Chafee is able to deny the extradition request under the pretext of holding Pleau for charges in Rhode Island.
Jim Martin, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Rhode Island, has said the case will still be prosecuted at the federal level.